Nine years after leaving the club to secure game-time and fulfil his international ambitions, Phil Godman is back at Newcastle Falcons.
Now aged 31 and with 23 Scotland caps on the mantlepiece, the former Edinburgh and London Scottish man is a key part of the Falcons’ plan to cope with life back in the Premiership.
“It is nice to be back, and it has been a while,” said the Edinburgh-born fly-half, joining Rory Clegg in being repatriated to his former club as Newcastle gear up for life after Jimmy Gopperth.
“I have good memories of my first spell at the club, playing with guys like Jonny Wilkinson and Dave Walder, Jamie Noon and Tom May. It was an exciting time to play for the Falcons, and to fast-forward nine years it is great to be here once more.”
Godman returns to a club fresh from winning the RFU Championship final after the briefest of stays in England’s second tier, the sense of new beginnings proving part of the allure.
“Joining the Falcons when they have just been promoted seems a good time to be doing it, because there is so much possibility here in terms of what the future holds,” said the stand-off, three weeks into pre-season training.
“It is early days at the moment, but it is shaping up well.”
Arriving for his second stint at Kingston Park in drastically different circumstances to his first, Godman recalled: “I was studying at Northumbria University, so I came down here purely as a student to begin with.
“I did that for a year, before the professional rugby with the Falcons took over and I decided to come here and train full-time.”
Thrown into a group full of international players, he added: “I was 18 or 19 at the time, and to be in that environment with guys like Jonny Wilkinson, Dave Walder and Rob Andrew was amazing for an aspiring fly-half.
“Obviously it meant game-time was not the easiest to come by, but just working with those guys in training every day and seeing how they operated – it was absolutely invaluable.
“Sadly when Jonny got injured after the 2003 World Cup it coincided with me also being out, which was frustrating, because I knew it would have been an opportunity for me. But I benefited massively just from being around that squad, and when I left in 2004 I always hoped I would get to come back.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle’s Sarah Hunter is preparing to captain the England Women’s side as they tackle world champions New Zealand.
The first match of the three-test series comes at Auckland’s Eden Park on Saturday at 6.05am BST (live on Sky), followed by Tuesday’s second test in Hamilton and the series finale in Pukekohe a week on Saturday.
Hunter said: “Winning the last two series is a huge achievement and fills the squad with great confidence, but we are very aware that playing in New Zealand will be a very different prospect.
“The roles have been reversed – we are now the ones travelling half-way around the world, managing jet-lag and playing out of season – so it will be a real test of our character to overcome these challenges and perform to the high standards we set ourselves.”
In Women’s Under-20 action, the Darlington Mowden Park trio of Rachel Roberts, Amy Needham and Jo Brown have been named in the England team for tonight’s Nations Cup opener against South Africa in Nottingham.
They face further group games against Canada on Sunday and USA on Wednesday, before the finals a week on Sunday.
Durham University’s Megan Ellery is in the Russian city of Kazan with the Great Britain women’s rugby sevens squad for the World Student Games.
Teesside University’s Aaron Myers is in the men’s squad for the tournament, which runs Sunday to Wednesday.