After more than a decade as a professional Mike Blair thought he had nailed the knack of getting out of pre-season training. Until he joined Newcastle Falcons, that is.
The 32-year-old has been pounding the sand dunes and shifting tin with the rest of the Kingston Park crew, admitting the days of sitting it out due to internationals and injuries are long gone.
Retired from Scotland duty after a decade which delivered 85 caps, the crafty scrum-half said with tongue in cheek: “I had 11 pre-seasons at Edinburgh, and I managed to miss ‘Murder Hill’ on all but one occasion.
“Some of that was down to summer tours and some due to little tweaks, but the unfortunate thing with a new club is that people don’t know you, so you can’t pull out the injury joker card to get out of it!” Blair has been right in the thick of it. “The second week I was here we were running up some ridiculous sand dunes, and I had absolutely no technique whatsoever,” joked the Scot.
“After the third attempt I was pretty much walking, and running up the stairs at the beach has been horrific as well.”
Shining a light on pre-season preparations, the former Edinburgh and Brive star added: “One of the stand-out things has been the work ethic and desire of the team.
“I knew that would be the case before I even got here, to be honest, but it has certainly been backed up by what I have seen during pre-season.
“That is what this team has to embody, because we are not going to be a side which blows people off the park.
“The culmination of everybody driving towards the same goal – that will be the thing that defines us.”
Promoted last season with Brive in the same manner as Newcastle, the experienced head gets to return to his former home in October when the two teams meet in the Correze region.
“We loved our time in Brive, and drawing them again in the Amlin Challenge Cup is brilliant on a personal level,” said the half-back, whose team-mates at the Stade Municipal included former Falcons great Jamie Noon.
He added: “It actually looks like quite a good group for us, all told, because you would expect Calvisano and Bucharest to be the weaker of the sides on face value.
“No disrespect to them, of course, but in terms of Newcastle pushing through to the knock-out stages the draw could certainly have been worse.”