Fraser McKenzie believes he has joined Newcastle Falcons at just the right time, with the Scottish lock-forward predicting an upward trajectory for the Aviva Premiership new boys.
Signing from Sale Sharks to bolster the Championship winners’ back-five forward options, the 6ft 6in specimen lacks nothing in the physical stakes.
A man in demand after deciding to depart the Manchester-based side, McKenzie said: “Newcastle have been a Premiership team for a lot of years, and despite a one-season blip in terms of their relegation I have still made the judgement that they are a club on the right path.
“They seem to be thinking along the same lines as the likes of Harlequins, which I suppose is obvious when you factor in Dean Richards being here and the club just being promoted.
“Quins came up and have been very successful, they have recruited brilliantly and based everything on that ground-up stability. That is why I have moved here. I feel like Newcastle can make me a better player, and that I can help the team.”
Among those waiting nervously for the result of the Championship play-off final which cemented the Falcons’ return to the big time, the Scotland A cap said: “I was actually on holiday when the game was on.
“It is a long old season, though, and when I looked at it logically Newcastle had done well throughout. They were top by miles, and even though there was an obvious risk attached to the play-offs, I always felt they would maintain those standards and get the job done.
“Clearly it was worrying at times when they went behind in matches or whatever, and you are following their progress, but I always felt they had the quality to pull through.”
The thin line between confidence and arrogance has claimed many a sporting scalp down the years, but the former Edinburgh man is staying firmly on the right side when asked to outline the impact he hopes to make during his stay at Kingston Park.
He said: “I would like to think I can be an important player for this team, and I feel like I have a lot to offer.
“I am not going to come here and say I will do this, this and this, but I definitely want to make a difference and help push Newcastle up the league. This first season back in the Premiership has to be a good one.
“In my position you have the likes of big Carlo del Fava who has a huge amount of international experience, and he is definitely someone I can learn from. That will push me on further, and there are a lot of guys competing for selection who will all drive the standards.”
Able to slot onto the back three of the scrum, the athletic ball-carrier sees his role primarily in the central two, although with team matters uppermost in his thoughts is in no mind to shun a start wherever it comes.
“I have played a bit of back-row before, and that has been talked about,” he admitted.
“I could slip into either position, and while I would like to say my versatility works in my favour I do see myself more as a second-row.”
Looking to make an early impact during a pre-season schedule which sees Newcastle meeting former club Edinburgh in Hawick on August 30, he joked: “They managed to sneak it on to the fixture list just for myself and the other Scottish boys here, but it is a good one for me to hopefully put a marker down.”
Meanwhile, the final round of the Alnwick Rum Northumberland 7s Series at Seghill RFC saw Westoe win the cup. Tynedale claimed the overall competition which has been spread throughout the summer, with top try-scorer Rob Parker also named player of the series.