James Hudson sets sights on leading role in Bath clash

IN the week new broom Gary Gold swept into Kingston Park, Hudson admits he has had little contact with the South African.

Newcastle Falcons captain James Hudson (left) poses with Bath captain Stuart Hooper

IN the week new broom Gary Gold swept into Kingston Park, Hudson admits he has had little contact with the South African.

In rugby’s brutal world it is only the fit and able who demand the greatest attention, and Hudson does not slot into either category at the moment.

Instead, on the white-board behind former head coach Alan Tait’s desk, his name is scribbled in the column marked ‘dead men’ – meaning those unable to join in with team training.

“Initially I took a fair bit of stick from the lads, who were saying I was up to a C-cup because of the swelling,” joked the lock-forward, whose torn pectoral saw him pulled from the action midway through his side’s home defeat to Northampton Saints on New Year’s Eve.

As is often the way, it was no high-speed collision which has drawn him from duty, the 30-year-old revealing: “The way it happened was totally innocuous – just making a low tackle around somebody’s legs.

“I tried to pull them back and I just felt something go in my chest.

“It was fine for the rest of the half making front-on tackles, but whenever I had to pull anybody in or reach out I was struggling.

“As much as I wanted to carry on playing and the coaches were keen for me to get back out there, the doctor rightly put his foot down.

“He knew I had torn my pectoral and would not let me on the field.”

Infuriating inactivity has given way to gradual gymnasium gains with Hudson able to lift the bar again – albeit it without any weights attached.

He added: “I don’t think I am going to be setting any bench-press world records anytime soon, but it is coming along well.

“It is actually better than expected, because initially we had feared a much longer lay-off.”

Comebacks remain a perennial moving target with so many unknowns to negotiate, but Hudson makes no bones about the date etched in his mind as the Falcons return to league action at Bath three weeks today.

He said: “That is the big target but I know with this injury I will need that little bit of time to get the shoulder back up to strength before the match itself.

“I will have to be back in training for the start of that week, but I am getting great medical care at the club.”

The significance of February 11 is not purely down to wanting to impress at his first professional club, having emerged as a raw talent in the Bath academy.

Instead, it is more to do with his Falcons side having nine league games to save their season.

Nine points adrift at the bottom of the Aviva Premiership, he said: “It does not sound like much, but it is basically half a season when you think we only play 22 in the whole Premiership programme.

“There are 45 points left to play for, and we are right up for it.

“We have the squad here to do it, and that is what makes our current league position all the more frustrating.

“We know the quality is here and the message I keep trying to get across to the boys is just how capable we are of playing well.

“We know we have a huge challenge ahead to turn things round, but I am massively positive about our chances.”

With Gold now on board as director of rugby following Alan Tait’s departure, Hudson added: “Whenever a change of coach happens people realise quite quickly it is a clean slate for everybody again.

“It is a chance to impress and you have to take it.”

With largely second-hand experience of the new man to go on so far, he said: “Gary finished at London Irish about 18 months before I joined them from Bath, but even then the players still spoke very highly of the work he did and the way he went about things.

“I have only just introduced myself to him and with being out injured for the time being it has not got much further than that. Paul Moriarty is taking on the bulk of the responsibility for today’s game in Lyon.

“So on the analysis side I have mainly been working with Paul for the time being while Gary beds in and takes a good look at things.

“I know he has been watching the videos of our last few games, which will be useful, but he is just getting the lie of the land at the moment.”

Despite this afternoon’s Amlin Challenge Cup trip to the French strugglers being a virtual dead-rubber, Hudson insisted the Matmut Stadium clash could still prove a useful building block as the Falcons’ survival stretch draws near.

He said: “I know it is easy in hindsight, but this month of cup games seems to have come at a good time.

“We had a big win last weekend over Petrarca Padova which lifted everybody’s spirits, and it was great to see some young guys getting a taste of it with Tom Catterick and Joel Hodgson crossing the try-line.

“They had been gagging for their opportunity, but even for the older lads the cliché is true that winning is a habit.”

 
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