Hugh O’Sullivan raising the steaks at Newcastle Falcons

Friday 30 June 2023 Written by: Adam

The 25-year-old son of Meath is a summer arrival from London Irish, and was this week the recipient of a giant T-bone steak as Newcastle Falcons’ coaches look to reward the players who are putting in a shift during pre-season training.

“I have to say my experience of cooking steaks of that size is very limited, so there was some heavy-duty Googling and watching of Youtube videos going on,” said the former Leinster man, whose prize was donated by Charlotte’s Butchery in Gosforth.

“Bryan Byrne also gave some assistance, by which I mean he sat on the sofa lecturing me, but the steak was lovely, to be fair. I chucked some chips in the air-fryer and some mushrooms and onions as well, so it was textbook stuff, really.

“I think a few of the boys have had them now as a bit of a weekly award from the coaches, and the butcher who supplies them is dangerously close to where I live. It’s been great, all joking aside, and things like that over the course of pre-season are just that little bit of extra incentive or fun to make the day-to-day stuff a bit more interesting.”

Turning to matters on the field as he finishes his third week at Kingston Park, O’Sullivan said: “I’ve really enjoyed it so far.

“There’s been a lot of change here over the off-season with a big turnover of players and a couple of new coaches coming in – so it’s basically a fresh start for pretty much everyone. Even the local lads who have been here for quite a while are approaching it as a new beginning, and it’s been fun getting to know everybody.

“Those local guys like Callum Chick and Adam Radwan, to name just a couple, have been helping to give everybody a sense of the area and the values around the place, and it’s been great just going through that process and getting to know the North East a bit.”

Working under head coach Alex Codling, the nippy half-back said: “We’ve put a lot of good quality work in, but the coaches haven’t been excessively hard on us just yet because it’s such a long pre-season.

“We’ve got one more week left in our first four-week block, and then we’re off for a week just to recharge the batteries a little. With the World Cup being on we’re starting a little later than usual in terms of the games, but things are starting to ramp up and you can see the direction we’re going in.

“The new head coach coming in makes a big difference because it’s not just the new players who are experiencing something different. Codders has come in and brought a new perspective on things, doing things in a slightly different way. I obviously wasn’t here last season so I’m just going off what the lads have been saying, but the fact that it’s new for everyone I think is helpful because we’re all in the same boat.

“It’s hard for me to comment on the differences with having not been here before, but from what I’ve picked up there seems to be a change in terms of wanting to play more with the ball at the line, and probably not kicking as much.

“Hopefully that’s the kind of thing the fans will like to hear because it should mean a bit more running rugby, and as players it’s exciting. If you ask most guys they want to play with the ball in hand and they don’t want to be chasing kicks all day long, although kicking is an extremely important part of the game and we’ll still do it when we need to.

“As well as Codders we’ve also had Scott Baldwin coming in a little later to implement some of his stuff in defence, which has been dripped in over the past week. It’s all starting to come together even though it’s fairly early days, and you can see there’s a strategy behind it all.”

One facet running through pre-season is a summer-long competition which sees the players divided into four groups for a series of activities.

“The coaches have come up with a State of Origin theme, splitting the boys into four squads – Durham, Tyne & Wear, Cumbria and Northumberland,” explained O’Sullivan.

“The guys who are from those areas are put into those teams and the rest of us from elsewhere are spread around the four to even things out, and I’m in Team Durham.

“We’ve gone really well so far with the likes of Ben Stevenson and Adam Radwan helping lead the charge, and we’ve picked up a lot of points. The coaches are using it to add an element of competition to a lot of the things we’re doing in training, and as well as that competitive edge it’s also driving a lot of craic between the lads.

“Sometimes these things can be kind of corny and forced fun from the coaches, but in this case it’s been pitched really well from Codders and the S&C staff. My general sense from the playing group is that everyone has bought into it in the right way. It’s added a bit of fun to certain parts of training which might otherwise be a bit of a slog, and it’s just little things like having a drop-goal shoot-out tie-breaker this morning when two of the teams ended up with the same score during the main training session.

“We did a strongman team challenge on the back pitch last week, which again was a lot of fun, and some of the gym work has been integrated into it as well as the more game-oriented stuff. It’s also been a good chance to meet up with lads for a bit of food away from rugby and stuff like that, and it’s vital to get to know people outside of the building.”

One man already well known to O’Sullivan is his former London Irish team-mate Rory Jennings, with the versatile back tipped to make a big impact in the North East.

“Rory and I joined London Irish at the same time two years ago, and he really took off last season with a great run of games,” he said.

“We’ve talked this season about playing a more expansive brand of rugby and keeping the ball more in hand, and he will certainly facilitate that. If he plays at inside centre he’s a second pair of hands, and he can obviously come in at fly-half as well. Wherever he ends up he’ll be a great distributor and communicator, but he packs a punch and he’s well able to carry the ball or put in a few shots.

“It’s great to have him giving us that ability, and with the other guys we have in the squad we’ve got plenty of options for the coaches to pick from.”

Enjoying life away from rugby, too, he added: “I’m getting to know Newcastle a bit better now, and my general sense of direction is starting to kick in.

“I don’t have to use Google Maps to get to the stadium, which is always a good sign, but Bryan Byrne and I have been enjoying living together in Gosforth for the past couple of weeks. It’s good to have a familiar face here, and after a spot of house-hunting myself and Rory Jennings have now found a place in Gosforth which we’re moving into together.

“It seems like a great city, and all the interactions we’ve had with people have been really positive and friendly.”

Season tickets for 2023-24 are on sale now by [**clicking here**][1].

Or check out our three and six-game bundles by [**clicking here**][2].