Tonga scrum-half Sonatane Takulua has handed Newcastle Falcons a major boost in the build-up to Friday’s Aviva Premiership kick-off by signing a four-year contract extension.
The 26-year-old was one of the Falcons’ stand-out performers last season, scoring six tries in his 13 Aviva Premiership appearances and kicking goals at a rate of 88%, the second-highest in the division based on a minimum of 20 attempts.
Capped 23 times by Tonga, whom he helped to an unbeaten European tour last autumn and Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification this summer, Takulua spoke of his delight at the new deal as he prepared for Friday’s home opener against Worcester Warriors.
He said: “I am very thankful to the club for showing their faith in me, and really happy that my family and I will be staying here. We all love living in Newcastle, the Falcons as a club has a really great culture and everyone is really excited about the new season.
“I knew I was going into the last season of my contract and I was hoping the big boss wanted me to stay. I was glad to get it all sorted quickly and I know my wife and kids feel the same about life here.
“I feel like I’ve made progress every year I’ve been with the club, and I’m not about to stop. I want to keep pushing myself, keep challenging myself to the limit and never thinking I’m completely happy with my game. I want to make my family and the Falcons supporters proud, and that’s my motivation.”
Director of rugby Dean Richards echoed Takulua’s enthusiasm, saying: “It’s great news that a player of Tane’s quality, at the peak of his powers, has pledged his long-term future to Newcastle Falcons.
“He embodies what we as a club stand for in terms of his work ethic, family values and the fact he plays a positive brand of rugby with a smile on his face.
“He is a top international-quality scrum-half who has shown he is capable of a consistently high level of performance, and I’m sure I share the delight of our supporters at the fact he will be with us for at least another four seasons.”
Having enjoyed a productive summer with the Tongan national side, which included a victory over Samoa, Takulua said: “It has been a busy time. I went over to New Zealand to spend some time with my family and then moved on to the Tonga tour. I had a good few weeks with them and as a result flew into pre-season at Newcastle a little later than most of the boys, so it has just been a case of working hard from there to make sure I’m ready for the start of the Aviva Premiership.
“I was very pleased at qualifying for the Rugby World Cup along with all the Tongan boys and coaching staff, and the population of the country. We’ve got our spot now for 2019 and we just want to build towards it, but before then the important thing is continuing to make progress with the Falcons.”
Buoyed by an off-season influx which has included a number of proven international names, he said: “The good thing this season is that the new guys have come in and known straightaway how tight the culture is within the club. They’ve fitted right in from day one, and that’s what we’re about.
“The club have given me the break that I needed over the summer, and I appreciate that because they understand what’s best from a players’ point of view. They have always done that, to be fair, and it has been great the way they’ve reintroduced me to the pre-season games. I just want to keep pushing myself for that starting spot.”
Enjoying big pre-season wins over Championship opposition before losing 14-10 away to Edinburgh last week, Takulua said: “Our first few friendlies saw us having a lot of time on the ball to get it to the width, and Edinburgh was a step up from that. They came off the line and shut us down, we had nowhere to go and that’s what the Aviva Premiership is going to be like. We know that, it’s what we’ve been working on and we’ve prepared well ahead of Friday’s game against Worcester.
“We’re happy as a squad, there’s a real excitement among the boys and we’re hoping the crowd can get pumped up on Friday. They really give us the extra energy when we need it during the games, and hopefully we can reward them.”
Tickets for Friday’s Aviva Premiership visit of Worcester Warriors to Kingston Park Stadium (kick-off 7.45pm) are available by clicking here, calling 0871 226 6060 or from the ground in person.