Scrum-half Sam Stuart is back in the thick of Newcastle Falcons’ pre-season after a summer which included active duty in Mauritius.
The 26-year-old was part of the Newcastle squad which reached the final of the Beachcomber World Club 10s last month, losing narrowly to South African Super Rugby side the Bulls, saying: “Going to Mauritius was a really enjoyable opportunity and not the sort of thing that comes around every day.
“It was a bit of an old-school rugby tour, in a way, which is something you don’t really get outside of the international game these days. It was a great destination and also the chance to play some decent rugby.
“The games were fairly tough and we were glad to get to the final, but also disappointed that we allowed the Bulls to win after going ahead earlier on. We were there to be competitive and we certainly did that, but it was also tinged with a bit of disappointment that we didn’t win the whole thing.”
Returning to pre-season duty as part of a Newcastle squad looking to build on their best season in two decades, the former Harlequins and Richmond half-back said: “I felt like my first year here went well.
“If someone had told me at the start of last season that I’d make 20 first team appearances I’d probably have told them they were wrong. But the opportunities arose, I was pleased with how things went for a first year and I’m looking now to build on it.
“The fact that this is my second pre-season I suppose means I can go into it with a little more confidence in terms of knowing the set-up here, and everything’s not new. Having said that, you’ve still got to do the hard work like everyone else, you’re all starting with a clean slate again and nothing in that sense has changed.”
Earning a little extra rest thanks to his exertions in the 10s, Stuart explained: “I’m in my first week of pre-season because the boys who went to Mauritius started back a week later, so there has been a lot of fitness testing and screening just to establish your base line.
“The good thing is that we always mix skills work, rugby training and conditioning games in with all the weights and fitness, which could get quite monotonous if you just did them without a break. Putting one foot in front of the other can become boring at times, so any opportunity to get a rugby ball in our hands is welcomed by the boys. Luckily the coaches are pretty good on that side of things.”
Setting a high bar ahead of Friday’s Gallagher Premiership fixture announcement, he added: “First things first, we want to consolidate on last year’s top-four place in the Premiership.
“Along with that we had three semi-finals and an A-League semi-final last season, and lost them all, so there’s a huge desire to try and get ourselves involved in the finals of the competitions we’re in.
“It’s an ambitious goal and I’m only speaking for myself here, but you’ve got to aim high, and we’ve shown we have the ability.”
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