Like many men Andy Saull is a believer that size doesn’t matter; it’s what you do with it that counts.
Newcastle Falcons’ foraging flanker stands a mere 6ft 1in a game where giant frames and huge collisions are the norm – no more so than at Exeter, the Falcons’ opponents this afternoon.
The combination of a lighter base and speed of movement has brought tremendous nuisance value to the Essex-born open-side, who believes today’s trip to Devon can see Newcastle springing a surprise.
“From one to 15 they are big, and when you see their back line in the flesh they are huge,” said Saull, the former Saracens and England Saxons forward.
“In terms of the back row I have played with and against guys like Tom Johnson and Dave Ewers, and they can certainly carry a ball.
“The back row is one of their strengths, and the conditioning side with the shape they are in.
“But I am used to being one of the smaller back-rowers in the league, so it is nothing different for me in coming up against a big guy.
“I do it every week, and it should be fun. If it is due to be a wet and windy day there will be a few times when we are at the bottom of a ruck with one another, saying ‘hello’ in the friendliest of manners!
“It is everything we like, and if you don’t want to roll around in the mud for 80 minutes then you should find a new career.
“It is good to stick it up your jumper every now and again when the winter conditions come into it, and I have been looking forward to this one for a while.”
Having shone in the No 7 shirt during back-to-back victories over Italian opponents Calvisano during the past fortnight, today’s return to league action marks a step up in both quality and intensity.
“Calvisano were big and physical, but it was a loose game and the Premiership defences are much more structured,” said the 25-year-old.
“Teams like Exeter will take their chances a lot better than Calvisano did, so it will be a more difficult challenge in that sense.
“The Chiefs have a very big pack and they like to run the ball, much in the same way as Calvisano did. But I would expect them to be more well-drilled, and a different kind of challenge from that point of view.”
The fact Newcastle have never beaten Exeter away in their entire history is more a result of them being in different leagues until recently, but at sixth in the table and with a growing support base the Chiefs are heralded by many as the model for newly-promoted clubs to follow.
Much of their progress has been made on home soil, not that Saull finds Sandy Park an inhospitable ground to visit.
He said: “I don’t think it is intimidating – not in the same way as a Leicester or a Gloucester where they are rugby die-hards, baying for your blood.
“Exeter’s fans get there in numbers and enjoy their day out, which is great.
“You always want to be playing in front of big crowds, and Exeter is one that I really enjoy. They have the best chant in the Premiership with the tomahawk actions to match, and I just love it. If I start hearing that during the game I will be thinking ‘quality’, because it is just superb.”
Cautioning the Chiefs against taking Newcastle as easy-beats, he added: “I have heard a few stats and a few whispers, and they have come into this off the back of two tough Heineken Cup games against Toulon.
“The last thing you can afford to do in rugby is underestimate a side, and they may be a bit battered and bruised.
“In the back of their minds they could be thinking we have come all the way from Newcastle, that the weather could affect us and it could be their day. But they would be foolish to write us off.”