Burrell: Five-game push starts here

Thursday 06 May 2021 Written by: Adam

The Kingston Park club marked their return to the top flight by winning their first three games, and are now determined to bookend the campaign with similar success following a mid-season lull.

Leading midway through their last game at Gloucester but just failing to hold on amid a barrage of injuries, Burrell remains confident that the North Easterners have what it takes to regain their winning habit.

“We’ve shown that we can beat good sides this season – Bath, Wasps, Sale, Gloucester and Harlequins, all great clubs – and even though we’ve had to battle through the last couple of months we’re confident we can return to that kind of form,” said the former England centre, who returned to rugby union this season following a stint with Warrington Wolves.

“With the quality of players and coaches we’ve got there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t do that, and London Irish on Saturday is huge for us in really mounting that five-game push.

“It’s the last five games that this group will be together, and we want to end on a high for each other. Some guys will move on, some will retire and all the rest of it, so there’s a massive buy-in from everyone to really come together and regain that belief which saw us starting the season so strongly.”

Relishing his second spell in the 15-man game, Burrell added: “I feel back at home, I’m loving being back in rugby union and it’s great to be coming up against some of my old mates and colleagues every week.

“The coaches have all been great with me here, and even though we’re on a run of defeats in the league we’re still carrying a lot of confidence in knowing we have the quality to finish the season strongly.

“The top four seem to be pulling away, but beyond that a couple of wins for anyone can see them climbing right up the table, and with Champions Cup spots still up for grabs there’s a massive incentive for teams.

“The return of fans from May 17 onwards is another massive factor, because we want to do it for those guys who haven’t been able to come and watch us during the season so far. When you add it all up there’s still loads for us to play for.”

Looking back on his team’s last outing at Kingsholm just over a fortnight ago, the centre said: “We performed well down at Gloucester for probably 45 minutes, built a lead and unfortunately just lost our way a little bit against a side full of good players.

“We made a few compounded errors which allowed them into the game, I ended up getting my ribs smashed and having to go off after an hour but I’m good at the moment, and raring to go.

“We would have loved to have been in last weekend’s European semi-finals of course, but the fact that we weren’t meant we had most of last week off, and that has at least allowed us some time to rest and recuperate ahead of Saturday against London Irish.”

This weekend’s round of matches is dedicated to Restart, the official charity of the Rugby Players’ Association, with Burrell named as Newcastle Falcons’ Restart ambassador.

“I’m very honoured to have been asked to represent the club in that role for the Restart round, because mental health is such a huge issue within sport and general life,” he said.

“People, over this last year or so especially, have really been struggling, and haven’t always felt able to open up and talk about it. I’ve had certain things going on in my own life and have shared them in the media, and as a result of that I’ve had other players contacting me to say they can relate to what I’ve put out there.

“I’ve been really good mates with Kearnan Myall since we were kids, and when I read the newspaper interview regarding his own struggles a year or so ago I felt sad that he couldn’t have come and talked to me about it. That really resonated with me and I wanted to do my bit in trying to move things on to a place where sportspeople are a bit more comfortable talking about these things, so to be asked to be a Restart ambassador was something I took as a huge honour.

“A problem shared is a problem halved, and the same goes for the general public as well as professional athletes. I think for our supporters just having that ability to leave the house and come down to watch the Falcons play will be that slice of normality that they’ve perhaps craved, and it’s great that we can play a part in that.

“I’ve been in Newcastle for nearly a year now, but because of all the restrictions I’ve not really met any of our supporters. It’s such a shame because a big part of being a rugby player is that buzz you get on game day seeing everyone there – chatting to people and just enjoying that collective experience.

“That will come next week to some extent when we have some supporters in for the Northampton game, which is obviously fantastic, and we can really set the tone for that by winning this weekend against London Irish.”