Fearns: Camp sees preparations going up a gear
The former Rouen, Lyon, Bath and Sale Sharks forward is part of the group currently staying and training at the well-appointed Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, with Friday night’s pre-season opener at Leicester Tigers just around the corner.
“Being in camp is where you really up the stakes in terms of working on your units, team play and game plan,” said Fearns, who has made 18 appearances since joining the Falcons.
“As well as training all day you’re around your squad-mates the whole time, and in addition to the rugby it’s about building or tightening those relationships. There’s social stuff as well as the rugby and fitness work, and being in camp is just a heightened environment where everything really comes together.
“For me, developing that cohesion on and off the field is everything. If you’ve got a good relationship with someone you’re going to go that extra mile for them, and they’ll do that bit more for you – whether it’s subconscious or whatever.”
Packing down for the new season after a summer which has seen fresh faces on the playing and coaching staff, Fearns said: “There’s been a massive change, and the biggest thing I’ve noticed is a real confidence about our attack.
“Boys are really backing their skills – when they go, they go – and I’m excited about how it’s going to look. We’ve made a lot of gains during pre-season, and we’re obviously keen now to get it on the field for people to see.”
What better place to begin than Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Friday, with a 7pm kick-off against Leicester Tigers?
“Playing away against the champions as our first assignment is a massive opportunity for us,” said Fearns.
“Leicester do all the basics really well, like chasing kicks and building pressure, and it’s incredibly effective for them. For us to get that first up in pre-season, it will give us a real benchmark of where we are.
“With pre-season games you get all the cliches about the result not being the most important thing, and yeah there’ll be a big emphasis on the performance side of it. Accuracy is what we’re really looking for in everything we do, and it’s all about getting prepared so we can put out the game we want once the Premiership season starts.”
A vastly-experienced performer who made his Premiership debut during the 2008-9 season, the abrasive back-rower is well-placed to comment on the advances made to summer training schedules during the intervening years.
“When I first started in professional rugby the players would get flogged just for the sake of it, whereas now there’s a lot more science behind it,” he said.
“Everything you do is there for a reason – to make you a better player – and it’s definitely not like it used to be.
“The rugby ball comes out early doors in pre-season, and that takes your mind off things. Half the time you don’t realise how hard you’re working because you’re mentally stimulated by the skill or competition element of something, rather than it just being a mindless beasting. Before you know it you’ve done 5km or 6km of running, and the coaches are really good in terms of how they put together the conditioning games.”
With Newcastle typically flying under the radar when it comes to media expectation for the season to come, Fearns has nothing but positivity about the club and its prospects.
“I absolutely love it here,” he insisted.
“It’s a great group of lads, and as much as I know everyone always says it, we’re an incredibly tight group. The best way to describe it is that I’d happily go for a pint or a coffee with any of our lads and genuinely enjoy myself – and to me that says a lot.
“We’ve got a really good forward pack in my opinion, and I believe we can push to be one of the top four packs in the division.”
Away from his Falcons commitments Fearns is also building a reputation on the coaching front, and will once again be imparting his expertise this season.
“Last year I was doing a bit of coaching with Bishop Auckland Colts, and Consett came in and asked if I’d be interested in helping with their seniors this season along with Frazer Wilson,” he revealed.
“It’s something I’m maybe looking at going into, doing a bit of coaching, so I just need to go out and get the experience and confidence in terms of delivering what I want to get across. I’ve got my level two and three coaching awards, and it’s something I enjoy.”
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