Rob Vickers is keeping his front-row options open despite having spent the majority of the Premiership season converting from hooker to prop.
The Yorkshireman packed down at loose-head prop for the Falcons during Saturday’s 16-3 loss at Exeter, just as he has done for the majority of the campaign.
That has been partly due to the injury sustained by French signing Franck Montanella, and partly to the ease with which he has acclimatised to life on the left edge of the front-row after spending the best part of a decade in the middle of it.
Vickers said: “I am still learning the position, and I wouldn’t say I am a prop now.
“My bread and butter is still hooker, but I am enjoying propping for the time being.”
Falcons front-row coach Micky Ward has referred to the switch as his ‘project’, and the student is giving the teacher full marks.
Ward should know a bit about the position, having made more than 200 senior appearances in 13 seasons as a Falcons player, also packing down for England Saxons in his prime.
Still adding his weight to the Blaydon scrum in National One, Vickers has nothing but admiration for the coaching ability of his propping mentor.
“Wardy is just a great guy who is unbelievably knowledgeable on the subject. I have described him as a ‘Jedi’ in the past, and he knows the position so well,” he said.
“Working with him is brilliant, as is seeing the young front-rowers coming through with the likes of Scotty Wilson, Kieran Brookes, Grant Shiells and George McGuigan. I learn from them just as they do from me, and they are all great talents.”
Ideally placed to point Ireland Under-20s hooker George McGuigan in the right direction, Vickers insisted he is keen for the homegrown prospect to plough his own furrow.
He said: “When I am propping alongside George I can pass on my experience to him, but you have to be careful. I don’t want to try and make George into myself, because he is a different player and has different strengths.
“It is nice to be alongside a young player and offer some advice here and there.
“George is very receptive to that, however he is a feisty character who plays that way – and you would never want to remove that from his game.
“He is 10 years younger than I am and has a long career ahead of him, so I don’t want to fill his head by saying my way is the only way to play hooker. It clearly isn’t.”
Both Vickers and McGuigan can expect to be in the frame for Friday’s league visit of London Wasps to Kingston Park, a bumper festive crowd anticipated for the televised clash.
Having at least been given tomorrow away from training, Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards revealed: “The lads are off on Christmas Day. I am not THAT heartless.”
The former England and Lions back-rower joked: “They are allowed one roast potato, but they can eatas many Brussels sprouts as they like!
“This is one time of year where the players have to sacrifice things that many of us take for granted, but the life of a sportsman is a fantastic one.
“For these boys, who are lucky enough to play rugby for a living, it is a small concession to make to be playing during the holiday season.
“But they still get to enjoy Christmas Day at home with the kids tomorrow, even if they can’t fully indulge in everything on the table.”