New-boy Scott Lawson believes Newcastle Falcons are better for having had to endure the Championship play-offs – even though they might not have thought so at the time.
The Scotland hooker is in his first week at Kingston Park after joining from London Irish, having shone for his country on last month’s tour of South Africa.
Having made the decision to join the Falcons before he even knew which league they would be playing in next season, the former Glasgow and Gloucester front-rower was among the many crossing their fingers during a play-off campaign which saw tests against Leeds and Bedford.
With a nail-biting final eventually seeing Newcastle’s Aviva Premiership return confirmed, Lawson said: “I think everyone associated with the club was watching on nervously, including the group of players who had already signed for next season.
“There is the obvious debate about the merits of the play-off system, but I backed Newcastle to get the job done and I knew I wanted to be part of the club.
“We can talk about the rights and wrongs of having to go through the play-offs, but what it certainly did was demonstrate the character of the club and the guys who were playing.
“That might be easier to say in hindsight now that we are through, but it was a pressure situation, and that is what sport is all about.
“Winning the regular season in the manner that they did created a pressure of its own for the semi-finals and final, and in the end all the work which had gone before was crucial in getting the team through those knockout rounds.”
Getting to grips with pre-season in readiness for the season opener at home to Bath on September 6, the 31-year-old added: “Dean Richards gave me a little bit of time off after the Scotland tour – two weeks, I think, and it has been straight into it since then.
“I started with the boys this week, and it has been good to get in and see what is going on. As a new player you always want to meet the guys, and to go through the hard work which is the foundation of your season.
“It is early days just yet, but from what I have seen the attitude of the boys seems spot-on. Every single one of them is really putting the graft in.”
Having seen pre-season at a variety of clubs, some themes just keep on re-appearing. “There is one common denominator when it comes to this time of year at any of the teams I have played for, and that is very hard work,” said Lawson.
“The front-row boys obviously love the conditioning coaches grabbing various bits of fat, weighing you at every opportunity and making you run until you can’t go any further. It is all good, but on a serious note what is very evident at Newcastle now is a real determination to take the club forward on a steady path.”
Meanwhile, flank-forward Joe Robinson has signed for National One club Fylde, following the end of his three-year stay at the Falcons.
The 20-year-old Cumbrian did not break through to the senior side, playing much of his rugby at Tynedale, and hopes more regular game-time in National One can put him back on course for a professional career.
Robinson said: “ I am looking forward to starting the new season, getting back into the action and really enjoying my rugby again.
“Fylde offers me a very positive and professional environment in which to progress and further my rugby career in the future.”