Newcastle Falcons hot shot Mike Blair believes his new side are in fine fettle going into the business end of pre-season.
The 32-year-old scrum-half, who is Scotland’s most capped No.9 of all time with 85 appearances to his name, is currently in the south of France with the rest of his teammates preparing for tomorrow’s exhibition match with fellow Aviva Premiership club Bath Rugby.
And the former Edinburgh and Brive man admits the gruelling fitness regime is starting to pay dividends for the squad as the Falcons gear up for three warm-up games ahead of the Premiership opener against Bath on Friday 2 September.
“One of the stand-out things has been the work ethic and desire of the team this pre-season,” said Blair.
“I knew that would be the case before I even got here, to be honest, but it has certainly been backed up by what I have seen during pre-season.
“That is what this team has to embody, because we are not going to be a side which blows people off the park.
“The culmination of everybody driving towards the same goal – that will be the thing that defines us,” he added.
Joining from Brive this summer, the experienced campaigner has certainly had his fair share of pre-season beestings down the years with the Scot adding: “I had 11 pre-seasons at Edinburgh, and I managed to miss ‘Murder Hill’ on all but one occasion.
“Some of that was down to summer tours and some due to little tweaks, but the unfortunate thing with a new club is that people don’t know you, so you can’t pull out the injury joker card to get out of it!
“The second week I was here we were running up some ridiculous sand dunes, and I had absolutely no technique whatsoever!”
Blair gets the chance to return to his former club Brive in October with the northeasterners having drawn them in their Amlin Challenge Cup pool.
Winning promotion to the French Top 14 by the same means as the Falcons last term, Blair said: “I loved my time in Brive, and drawing them in the Amlin Challenge Cup is brilliant on a personal level.
“It actually looks like quite a good group for us, all told, because you would expect Calvisano and Bucharest to be the weaker of the sides on face value.
“No disrespect to them, of course, but in terms of Newcastle pushing through to the knock-out stages the draw could certainly have been worse.”
Tuesday 13th August v Bath Rugby @ Stade de la Mediterranne (kick-off 6.30pm local time) Saturday 24th August v Connacht Rugby @ Kingston Park (kick-off 3pm) Friday 30th August v Edinburgh Rugby @ Mansfield Park (kick-off 7.45pm)