Ruki Tipuna is battling hard to overcome the hamstring injury with which the Kiwi scrum-half arrived at Newcastle Falcons.
The 31-year-old is one of 10 summer signings made by the Kingston Park club, playing all the way up to June as part of a Bristol side beaten in the RFU Championship play-off final.
Revealing a summer of graft as he aims to regain full flow in time for the new season, Tipuna said: “I have been here for about a month, but it has been mostly prehab.
“I tore my hamstring in my last game, so I have not been out training with the lads as such.
“Starting later than the rest of the squad and being injured when I came here has meant I am a bit behind everyone else, but I am slowly catching up.
“I have been eased back in and I am doing a lot of physio work to strengthen up the hammy.
“Hopefully, I will be back into it properly either this week or the week after.” That rules the former New Zealand Sevens international out of Saturday’s Premiership Rugby 7s in Darlington, but Tipuna’s first impressions of Newcastle have not been blunted by his gradual introduction to training.
He aded: “The feeling is very good here, and the lads seem like a welcoming and easy-going bunch.
“I did hear about the terrible weather up here, but I’ve not seen it yet!
“It has been an awesome month but I know it doesn’t stay like that, so I am just making the most of it.”
A former team-mate of former Falcons great Jimmy Gopperth, he added: “I was born in the Bay of Plenty so I played for them in my first couple of years out of school, and from there I went to Wellington, the Scarlets in Wales and on to and Bristol.
“Jimmy and I played all our junior rugby together, so I gave him a call when I knew there was a chance of coming to Newcastle. He didn’t give much away, but he did say the surf was great and tthe guys at the club were very good. That is not a bad starting point.”
Keen to get going on the Falcons’ new synthetic pitch, Tipuna said: “It will definitely suit me, because I love a fast game.
“We are looking to play a quicker game this season and from that point of view the pitch will be perfect.
“Speed is what I will be looking to add to the team; speed of delivery and just getting in and out of the ruck.
“If your No 9 can do that then it gives the defence less time to get themselves set and that is what I am hoping to bring.”
In Tipuna’s absence Newcastle have gone with a predominantly youthful squad for Saturday’s Premiership Sevens, Tom Catterick the only survivor from the squad which won the 2011 competition He captains a squad including Brian Tuilagi, the latest in the long line of brothers with elder siblings Alesana and Anitilea having recently signed for the club. Rugby league recruit Lee Smith is included, academy director Mark Laycock fielding a host of his dual-registered players for the event which gets underway at 7pm at the Northern Echo Arena.
Laycock said: “The boys are itching to get started.
“We have selected a side which includes a number of players who have played in this competition before and we will be looking for them to use that experience and act as leaders out on the pitch against Leicester, Sale and London Welsh in Group D.”