Pharmacy student Simon Uzokwe is prescribing a ninth victory in succession as Newcastle Falcons head to Bath in Anglo-Welsh Cup action on Saturday.
The England Students international is in the third and final year of his studies at Sunderland University, and will form part of a Falcons side looking to take their unbeaten run beyond the two-month mark as they close in on semi-final qualification.
“The buzz around the club is amazing at the moment,” said the 23-year-old, who scored two tries on his first team debut at Wasps to help put Newcastle to the top of Pool Four with a perfect ten points from ten.
“I wake up every morning looking forward to coming into training, it’s a great place to be and we’re all learning a lot.”
Also topping their group in the European Challenge Cup and sitting in the top half of the Aviva Premiership, Uzokwe said: “Some people might be surprised at how well we’re doing in all competitions this season but it’s no surprise to us, because we see the hard work that’s going in every day. We all know the game plan, we’re good at what we do and it’s all about keeping up that momentum.
“As a club we have done well over the past couple of months, that confidence filters down to all the boys who aren’t necessarily in the Premiership team and it’s a great opportunities for lads to put their hands up.
“If we know and take care of our own jobs then we won’t go far wrong, and also within that is the fact we have an awareness of what the opposition are going to do. We will absolutely respect Bath on Saturday because they’re a good side, but if we execute what we are about then we’re in a good position to win the game.”
Explaining his route to the Kingston Park, the high-impact back-rower said: “I got let go by Northampton Saints when I was 18, I took a gap year and played rugby for my local club and I applied to Sunderland University to do a pharmacy degree.
“While I was there I signed for Darlington Mowden Park in National One, I had a good couple of years there and thankfully on the back of that I got picked up by Newcastle Falcons.
“I initially came up just to study and to play a bit of rugby on the weekend, but things have turned out for the better and I’m now combining my third year at uni with a full-time rugby contract. Sunderland have been really good in allowing me to fit my studies around training, I pick and choose which bits I attend and that support has helped me massively. It’s hard work fitting everything in but I got 90% for an assignment last week, so thankfully my marks haven’t suffered.”
Hoping to kick on after back-to-back starts against Russian champions Enisei-STM over the past fortnight, he added: “It has been a really good start to 2018 for me.
“Gary Graham being away with England has helped me to get some more first team exposure, I started both of the games against Enisei over the past fortnight and it has been a great learning experience.
“For me it’s just about absorbing things every day in training, trying to improve every day and just making the most of being in this environment. The two games against Enisei offered a massive physical challenge against a very big group of guys, and they carried hard from minute one to minute 80.
“Defensively is where I’m mainly looking to improve as a player, so from that point of view the Enisei games were ideal in terms of getting that 80-minute physical battering. I got a lot out of it, and I’m working hard with our defence coach John Wells to improve my defence.
“With being a former front-rower it’s a different job defensively when you’re an open-side, and I’m expected to be more of a defensive leader. It’s about translating my attacking game into the defensive stuff, I feel like I’m getting better with each game and I’m definitely around the right people every day in terms of helping me to improve.”