SCOTLAND scrum-half Rory Lawson is the latest international star to sign up for Newcastle Falcons, agreeing a two-year deal as the club looks to bounce back strongly from a difficult season.
The 31-year-old continues the theme of experienced campaigners being brought into the club as they prepare for life under new director of rugby Dean Richards, with Scottish lock Scott MacLeod and 54-cap Italian international Carlo Del Fava already announced this week.
Despite still not knowing what league they will be playing in next season the Falcons are attacking their off-season recruitment with a clear and focused strategy of adding proven quality in key positions.
Lawson certainly provides that, having won 30 caps for Scotland in a five-year international career which has seen him play in two Rugby World Cups. Captaining his country on occasion, the nuggety Dunfermline-born half-back is already familiar with the English game after spending five seasons with Gloucester.
Falcons’ commercial director Duncan Edward said: “We are not lying down as club, and we are determined to show that we are going places with the ambitious signings we are making. If that means being given another chance in the Premiership then we will be ready to take it, and if it means Championship rugby then we will make sure we storm the division with a Premiership standard squad.”
Lawson’s arrival adds significant weight in that regard, making 151 appearances and scoring 14 tries for in his Gloucester days after three seasons with Edinburgh.
Vying with Mike Blair, Chris Cusiter and Greig Laidlaw for the Scotland No 9 shirt, Lawson shone for his country’s second string in February by captaining them to a 35-0 thrashing of England Saxons in Galashiels, scoring one of his team’s four tries in a famous home victory.
Revealing his reasons for making the switch to Kingston Park, he said: “Newcastle’s form towards the end of the season was strong, and there is a lot we can build upon for next year to move the club forward.
“Having met with [club owner] Semore Kurdi it is clear that the Falcons have significant resource and intent to build a successful club in the North East, and the appointment of Dean Richards can only enhance that.”
International rugby is in the blood for the Newcastle new boy, with father Alan capped 15 times for the Scots between 1972 and 1980. He is also the grandson of legendary BBC commentator Bill McLaren (pictured below), and remains an enthusiastic supporter of the charitable foundation created in his honour.
Lawson’s arrival at Kingston Park goes some way to compensating for the loss of Peter Stringer – the Irish veteran who significantly transformed Newcastle’s game during a fraught relegation run-in.
Stringer has since returned to parent club Munster to resume his ambitions of winning a 100th cap for Ireland, but in Lawson the club have found an equally able replacement.
Despite missing the last two months of the Premiership season with a groin injury the Scot has returned to fitness to take up a place in a star-studded Barbarians squad for their upcoming British tour.
The Baa-baas tackle England at Twickenham a week on Sunday, following up with a match against Ireland in Gloucester on Tuesday May 29 and ending with a date against Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday June 3.
Lawson’s supporting cast at Newcastle will include a former Gloucester team-mate, with former England Under-20s international Jordi Pasqualin remaining contracted.
Will Chudley has already left the club for Exeter Chiefs, with the former Bedford Blues man moving on after just one season in the North East in which he failed to cement a regular place.
The other senior half-back on the Kingston Park books remains Chris Pilgrim, with the former Nottingham and Loughborough University man having recently agreed terms on a new deal.