Former Saracens lock Harry Spencer is spending the remainder of the season on trial with Newcastle Falcons as director of rugby Dean Richards assesses his second-row options for next term.
With Scott MacLeod, Ian Nagle and Sean Tomes all out of contract in the summer and Carlo del Fava having had to retire through injury, the 25-year-old Spencer has been drafted in for a closer look by the Kingston Park management.
The move was completed before the February 28 registration deadline, Spencer part of the Falcons ‘A’ squad which defeated national student champions Durham University in last week’s friendly match.
Making his breakthrough with Plymouth and spending three seasons in Saracens’ academy, Spencer has spent the last few years in the hard school of French lower league rugby, initially with Tarbes and more recently at Federale 1 side Chalon in the third tier of the country’s rugby pyramid.
Spencer said: “Through my agent I was made aware that Newcastle were looking for some cover in the second row, and Chalon were good enough to release me from my contract in recognition of the great opportunity.”
Insisting his time in France has been useful, he explained: “I joined Saracens from Ivybridge Community College, and was there for three years.
“I played a handful of first-team games, there was a change of management at the club and I left after the first year under Brendan Venter. From there I joined Tarbes in the Pyrenees, where people like Colin Charvis have played, and since then I have moved around France just trying to find game-time and enjoying the experience.
“The rugby and the lifestyle were good, and even down the leagues you are still playing against international players and seasoned pros.
“If you are a young tight-five forward it is a great place in which to learn all the dark arts, and add a different aspect to your life and your game. The culture and the rugby are not what we are used to in England, and it has made me more rounded as a person and a player.”
Hopeful of showcasing his talents to the Newcastle management in what remains of the English season, Spencer said: “My strengths are probably things like the fact I am quite a tall bloke, and I see myself as a lineout forward.
“I used to play on the wing when I was young so I am quite attack-minded, and being in France I have added that physicality and aggression to my defence.
“It is a bit of a trial period, really, and it will be a case of whether Dean rates me or not. We will just have to go from there, but this is a great opportunity and one I am determined to take with both hands.”
Richards, who himself had a spell in France as a teenager with Rouen before returning to England to join the police force, said: “I have watched a few games he has played, and his decision-making at certain times has been excellent.
“You cannot always get that right, and it is something that is either in you instinctively or is the result of meticulous work over a period of time.
“Considering his age and the relatively small amount of time he has spent in a real professional environment, it led me to believe it is probably more instinctive than anything.
“That is a great attribute to have, and he doesn’t shirk the hard work.”
Spencer and the Falcons squad are returning from a three-day training camp in Gloucestershire this week, taking advantage of two spare weekends with the LV= Cup semi-finals and final taking precedence in the club calendar.
Newcastle are next in Premiership action a week on Saturday when they travel to Gloucester in the league – the Kingston Park club still 11 points clear of win-less Worcester at the foot of the table.