Mike Delany says he is chomping at the bit to make his Newcastle Falcons return on Saturday, when Bath are the Anglo-Welsh Cup visitors to Kingston Park Stadium.
The Kiwi has been sidelined by a hamstring injury but comes back into the squad for the 3pm kick-off as the Falcons prepare to welcome back a host of their fit-again stars.
The former New Zealand All Black admitted: “Being injured is the worst place to be, but it’s part of the job and it’s good now to be back out there running around again.
“Nobody wants to be in rehab, but we have good guys there who know what they’re doing. Our rehab specialist Toby [Banfield] is an Aussie so we have a bit of chat about that, and he is really good at what he does. I have been getting thrashed in the gym and around the paddock, but I’m feeling good as a result. I have not had to rush back, they’ve made sure my injury is really clear and now I’m just looking forward to getting back out there there.
“The boys have been going really well and my recovery has also gone well, so I’m just happy to be out of the gym now. That’s the depressing place!”
Delighted with the progress the Falcons have made this term, having already won more Aviva Premiership games than during the whole of last season, the former Clermont man said: “Yeah, it’s great for everyone when the boys are winning and playing well.
“The feeling within the squad is good, you look forward to coming to training every day and it’s different to when you’re on that losing run. That’s when things can get pretty tough, but the boys are confident at the moment. Everyone is fighting for positions, putting pressure on each other, but at the same time they’re all helping each other.
“The goal is the same for everyone – finishing as high up the Premiership table as we possibly can, and it’s good to see the growth in the club. Teams are a bit more wary of the Falcons now, and they know you can’t just come up to Kingston Park to cruise through for a win.”
Despite his Newcastle side already being out of Anglo-Welsh Cup contention Delany insists Saturday’s game is still a useful exercise, both in terms of blooding some players and also preparing the squad for next week’s resumption of league action at Sale Sharks.
“I suppose you get a little bit more freedom and less pressure than a Premiership game, but all the boys are keen to put their hands up and it’s taken just as seriously by the players and coaches,” he said.
“Perhaps there is a bit more licence to try things, and it’s also a good chance for a hit-out for the boys who haven’t played in a little while. It’s a big opportunity.
“In terms of the younger guys coming in and what they need to do, we talk a lot about accuracy and game management. You learn over time what works and what doesn’t, things like being under certain pressures and knowing how to adapt your game. Those finer details within a game are often missed by people watching, but they’re crucial.
“There is a lot that goes into preparing a game plan and executing it on the day, and that’s what the younger players will learn from games like these. It’s also nice having a few of the older heads mixed in there with them, helping them and going through scenarios.
“What I’ve found in the Premiership is that the margins are incredibly small between winning and losing. You can be playing really well one second, concede a turnover and ship a try as a result. That mistake might be missing touch, not making a tackle because you’re in the wrong position or whatever, and you get stung for those little errors at this level. You have to be on it all the time, and know you can’t switch off.”
Happy that his comeback will be on the Falcons 3G surface rather than the saturated field which saw the early abandonment of last week’s 18-6 win at Newport Gwent Dragons, Delany said: “I suppose it was a bit of a novelty for the boys playing in those conditions.
“The lads who did play seemed to enjoy it, it was something different and it showed that even in difficult conditions we can turn up and get the job done. It would be easy to go through the motions in that situation, but it shows what a tight group we have at the moment. Everyone pushes one another, and when we’ve got a job to do we get stuck in.
“You know what you’re going to get up here with the [synthetic] surface being what it is. It’s definitely exciting in that sense because the rugby is always fairly quick. The forecast says there might be a bit of wind and rain about, which as a full-back I’m not too excited about, but I think both teams will be willing to play a good style of rugby and get some kilometres under our belt.
“From what I heard before I joined the club, before the new pitch was put down, the word was that nobody wanted to come and play here as an opposition side. It wasn’t the nicest in terms of the track, the weather and what-not, and even though teams might now get excited about our pitch we have to make sure we don’t give them anything. We’re starting to do that, it’s getting much harder to come and play against us and we’ve got to stay true to that.
“The crowd has been great with us this season, and we have to make sure that whenever teams enjoy a little patch in a game we get up and smack them back. The boys absolutely love playing up here, we talk about being proud of this place and we have to keep backing up that pride by putting in good performances.”
Having worn both the 10 and 15 shirts this season, he added: “I have played a lot of Super Rugby at full-back in New Zealand, and provincial rugby early on. I enjoy it, I don’t mind it at all. You can chime in when you can, and I know what kind of talk is needed for a fly-half. I can filter that in to whoever is playing 10, I enjoy helping out in that way and it also offers a second receiver to take the heat off guys like Joel [Hodgson] or Craig [Willis]. I can step in at first receiver when needs be, it gives me a lot of freedom in that sense, but the key for me is to play a part in the 15 or the 23 on match day, wherever that may be.”
Tickets for Saturday’s game are available by calling 0871 226 6060, clicking here or from Kingston Park Stadium in person. Saturday’s game is included in the season ticket membership package, and the England v France Six Nations game will be shown live on the stadium TVs at 4.50pm.