Fresh from helping spearhead Tonga’s charge at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, Sonatane Takulua insists he now has his Newcastle Falcons hat on as they prepare for Friday night’s home date with Hartpury.
The 8pm kick-off at Kingston Park Stadium sees Newcastle going for their tenth straight win after a flying start to the season, the team returning to Championship Cup duty after a run of league games which sees them six points clear at the top of the table.
Also unbeaten in cup competition, Takulua was eased back into club action with a 20-minute cameo in their 46-7 drubbing of Coventry last time out.
“It has been a long time away from Newcastle but I’m getting back into it now and looking forward for the games which are around the corner,” said the scrum-half, whose well-judged grubber kick created a debut try for centre Gareth Owen on November 17.
“The whole schedule has been pretty full-on.
“After playing for Tonga in the Pacific Nations Cup in June we had a week or so break, which wasn’t really a break because we still had a training programme to do during our time away. From there we played a warm-up game against New Zealand, who gave is a big wake-up call, and from there we went into camp and flew to Japan for the World Cup.
“Japan was a great experience, they were a fantastic host country for the World Cup and it was an honour to be involved in the competition.
“From a Tongan point of view we didn’t get the result we wanted for our country, but at least we ended with a win against the USA.
“It was nice to finish on that positive note despite being disappointed at the overall outcome, and it’s quite a commitment when you add on all the training camps, the warm-up test matches and everything else.
“I’d already been involved in a Rugby World Cup back in 2015, so I kind of knew what the expectation was and what it was going to be like.
“There were big crowds at all the games, the support was great and there was a lot of media attention, and it was really enjoyable to be a part of the whole thing.”
In his absence the Falcons have remained unbeaten, Takulua able to keep track of their progress despite being on the other side of the world.
“When I was in my down time from Tonga stuff I was checking up on how the Falcons were doing, and you can do all that on facebook, twitter and other social media sites these days,” he said.
“It was great to be reading that the boys were doing so well, winning the games and putting in a big start to the season. Hopefully we can keep it going for even longer now.”
Refreshed after his post-tournament break, the former Northland man said: “I had a holiday of about a week and a half back in New Zealand after the World Cup, catching up with friends and family, and I think that’s important.
“You need to have that down time after such a big physical and mental focus on the tournament, and combined with the fact that we also had last week off with having no game here, I feel fresh again and ready to go.
“Coming from the New Zealand summer to the Newcastle winter was a big change, but like a proper Geordie I was still in my T-shirt and shorts. That’s just how I roll!”
Admitting that the transition from country to club rugby requires a bit of time, Takulua explained: “It has taken me a little while to get tuned into all the calls and patterns, with going from one team to another.
“I’ve had to watch quite a bit of training back on video and talk to a few people just to make sure I’ve understood everything properly, but it’s been a couple of weeks now so I’m getting my head around it.
“I managed to get on for the last 20 minutes or so against Coventry the weekend before last, and really enjoyed it. The boys had put us in a great position by then so the game was pretty much won, and we were able to add a couple more scores from there.
“It was just a reminder of how good it is to be back playing at Kingston Park, the crowd were fantastic as they always are and it was another good win from the boys.”
Turning his attention towards Friday’s Championship Cup clash against Hartpury, he added: “It’s early in the week so we’ve not really sat down yet and talked too much about the cup, but we’re in a winning run now and nobody wants to give that up.
“I don’t know what the coaches are thinking in terms of selection as to whether or not I’ll be involved, we’ll find that out later in the week, but as players we just want to win everything.”
Tickets for the 8pm kick-off are available by clicking here, and include entry into the BUCS Super Rugby clash between Northumbria University and Hartpury at 4pm.