Newcastle Falcons and England flanker Mark Wilson says he is refreshed and ready to charge into the new Gallagher Premiership season after a summer on international duty.
The Cumbrian work horse was among the players to emerge with credit from England’s June tour to South Africa, playing in two of the three tests after another stellar season at club level.
“It has been good to go away and have a bit of a refresh after the tour,” said the 28-year-old, who passed the 200 appearance mark for Newcastle last season in a campaign which saw the Falcons reaching three semi-finals.
“I’ve been doing a bit of conditioning while I have been away, so it has been more a case of getting up to speed with the rugby stuff. I’ve come back in now and the lads are in great shape, so we’re just looking to develop ourselves and our game for the season ahead.”
On his England exploits, Wilson said: “It was really good being in South Africa, and it wasn’t all about the rugby.
“We did stuff off the field which the management see as important, and we had some decent down time. We were in Durban during the training week, we managed to get in a bit of recovery down near the beach and during our free time we did a bit of surfing and bodyboarding, which I’d never done before. We managed to dodge the great white sharks, which was handy, and it was an enjoyable experience.
“Being involved in two of the three tests was fantastic from a personal sense, and it was a big moment for me to get on the field during both of those games.
“What we did in terms of our preparation I felt was spot-on, I wouldn’t personally change how we prepared or went about our business while we were out there and it was only our execution during the games which was the issue. All the off-field stuff and preparation was fine, but of course it was disappointing to lose those first two tests.”
Fully focused on club duty now after resuming pre-season training, Wilson is committed to helping the Falcons kick on from their highest league finish in two decades.
“We keep growing each season, and it’s gradual progress,” he said.
“To be fair to Dean Richards he was clear from day one when he came into the club six years ago. He said it wasn’t going to be an overnight job and that it would take a good few years to get to where we wanted to be, which was top six and top four on a regular basis.
“The players all realised it was going to be a long-term thing, and we’ve improved every year. It hasn’t been wholesale change, we’ve added a little bit every season and we’ve kept the same core together.”
Seeing a targeted influx of quality signings including Logovi’i Mulipola, George McGuigan and Johnny Williams, Wilson said: “We’re in a position now whereby we have a group of guys who really want to play for Newcastle, a lot of them are local lads and it means a lot to all of us.
“That was evident in the many tight games we won last year, we dug out results when our backs were against the wall, and then as well as that local nucleus you’ve got your stardust with the finishers and creators who have come in from elsewhere.
“It’s a good mix, and it was no surprise to us that we got into the top four last season. The good thing with coming back in this week is that there hasn’t been a load of new faces - it’s back into the swing of it and we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It’s a case of backing up what we did last year, it’s little tweaks rather than drastic changes and we’re constantly striving to get better.”
Starting the new Gallagher Premiership season at home to champions Saracens on Sunday September 2, the England forward is well aware that he and his side now have a bullseye painted on their backs.
“The fact that we’re not regarded by other people as a surprise package doesn’t change anything from our point of view,” he said.
“It’s a fresh way of looking at it. For years now we’ve been going into games having been written off by people, but now teams and pundits are respecting us. It’s a test, for sure, but in terms of how we operate as a squad it doesn’t affect us.”
Season ticket memberships for 2018-19 are available by clicking here or calling 0871 226 6060.