Kieran Brookes’ journey from Leicester Tigers reject to England international shows Newcastle Falcons as a progressive club where players can improve, according to head coach John Wells.
Brookes became Newcastle’s first full England cap in more than five years when he featured in two of their three tests against New Zealand earlier this month – Tom May having been the last back in June 2009.
The prop returned for a second spell at Kingston Park last year, after failing to make a splash in the East Midlands. Wells explained: “Kieran was going nowhere at Leicester.
“He was fifth-choice tight-head at one point, and not getting a look-in.
“He has come back to Newcastle and our front-row coach Micky Ward has worked with him, taking him from the position he was in to an international-quality tight-head.
“That in itself should be saying to people that Newcastle have got ambition and they want to do well.”
Using Brookes as an example of how the Falcons can improve players’ fortunes, he said: “There is a recruitment and talent-identification side of it where we have gone out and got what we considered to be a good player.
“We have shown that with good coaching, we can take somebody else’s reject and make them into an international, just by giving them what they need. It is a big endorsement of the club for taking him on, and for Micky in improving him.
“That then becomes a selling point for the Falcons when guys are weighing up where they want to be, and for the other players in our squad they too can push on.”
Highlighting the lure of test rugby in his current crop, the head coach added: “We made a point this week to the squad, saying that Sale Sharks finished third-bottom of the Premiership two years ago and didn’t have anybody involved with England.
“Last year, they were sixth and had half a dozen lads called up, and it is a case of that collective success bringing individual success. You can say similar for sides like Exeter and Stade Français, who now supply half the French team, and part of being involved in coaching is the pride you get out of guys working their way up as a result of hard work and improvement.”
Keen for Newcastle to have international players despite it taking them away from club duty for chunks of the year, Wells remains adamant the pros far outweigh the cons.
“It is good for Newcastle to have international players up here because it makes people realise we are a club which wants to do things,” said the Yorkshireman, whose squad are engaged in their second week of training minus their test contingent.
“Every coach would like his players to be there at the start of pre-season, but that is never going to happen.
“The more successful you are, the more players are going to be away.
“The expectation with those guys is that, while they will get a sensible break, they will at least come back with a level of fitness which isn’t too bad because they have been playing up until three weeks ago. The reason they are playing international rugby is because they are good players with an international rugby mentality.
“They understand the game to a high level, and the stuff we will have done when they have been away, will be something they can pick up very quickly.
“For the new players, there is always a blending in process which takes a bit of time. It can be weeks for some and months for others.
“That is part and parcel of what you have to go through at any club, and it is the same for Newcastle as it is for Leicester.”