Transfer deadline day in rugby has seen Newcastle Falcons retaining the services of Rob Vickers, but The Journal can exclusively reveal Chris Pilgrim will be a Leeds player next season.
Pilgrim made 39 Premiership appearances in five seasons at Newcastle, the scrum-half part of the squad which lifted the RFU Championship title in May.
The 28-year-old (pictured below) yesterday signed papers at Leeds for next season, but hopes of spending the rest of the current campaign there were dashed when Newcastle would not release him from the remainder of his contract.
The former England Students international turned down an offer to join another Premiership club, opting instead for regular rugby with the ambitious Yorkshire outfit.
One man definitely staying put on newly-extended terms is Vickers, the 32-year-old who has made 90 Premiership appearances and a further 22 in Europe during his eight seasons at Kingston Park.
Neither the club nor the player would reveal the length of the new contract, which The Journal understands is an initial one-year deal with options to extend further.
“It is important to get a feel of what direction the club is going in, and that was very positive,” said Vickers, capped by England Saxons as a hooker but now making a serious name for himself at loose-head prop.
“From a rugby perspective the journey that the club has been on was important, and the direction it is headed in. I have been a part of that, and I would like to see it through further.”
With director of rugby Dean Richards slowly building for next season, Vickers said: “What we are very happy with as players is the direction that Dean is going to give the club.
“We are getting behind his vision of where he wants us to be, and also the ambition of the owner (Semore Kurdi). Players buying into what those guys have in mind for the club is what it is all about, and I have the belief in them that they will take us there.”
Lifestyle as well as sporting considerations also came into play for the Yorkshireman, who has settled in Co Durham with his young family.
“My wife has a farm up here so she would be staying regardless, and obviously that was one of many factors,” he said, having started 20 of the Falcons’ 25 games in all competitions this season.
“I didn’t want to move away, both from a lifestyle and a rugby point of view.
“I have a young daughter now so there is that to factor in, and also how the body is feeling. At the moment my body feels fine, and I still believe I have a lot to offer.”
Unperturbed by the decision to switch to loosehead prop this season, the versatile forward remains open-minded on his position and says it was not a deal-breaker when it came to agreeing his extended stay.
“You will write the reports in the paper every week and have an opinion on how that is going, but from my angle it is working reasonably well,” he said.
“I still have a lot to learn, but I feel like I am in an environment where that can take place. Micky Ward as our front row coach is absolutely outstanding – one of the very best, and the chance to learn from a guy like that is a big draw for front-row players.”
Having taken losing bonus points from Premiership leaders Northampton and title hopefuls Harlequins over the past fortnight, it gets little easier this Sunday when reigning champions Leicester Tigers visit Kingston Park.
Head coach Peter Russell says Vickers will be fit for Sunday’s 2pm kick-off despite visiting the blood-bin against Northampton, while Jamie Helleur and Ally Hogg are rated “there or thereabouts.”
Leicester are expected to select fit-again England and Lions centre Manu Tuilagi after a long-running rib injury.