Nili Latu has handed a major boost to Newcastle Falcons by signing a new extended deal to remain in the North East.
The Tonga captain was already contracted for next season but has committed for even longer, saying: “It was an absolute no-brainer. I have loved my first season with the Falcons, the fans have been awesome, I love the city and we have a great squad here.
“I am enjoying my time here and would like to stay longer. The team and the club has been great, I was keen to commit and it is great to have it all sorted.
“I feel we have an outstanding captain in Will Welch, some great senior players around him and it just makes it so easy when you have that in place. We can just focus on playing rugby because the set-up is so good, and I want to be part of something at a club with great history like this. It was a very simple decision.”
Admitting he has some way to go in mastering the Geordie language, Tonga’s most-capped player joked: “I am still trying to figure out the way they speak up here! There has been a lot of time spent asking people to repeat themselves, but my Geordie is coming along slowly and this is an area I have really fallen in love with.
“Our fans have been awesome with myself and the team. They travel huge distances to support us, they are always behind us and it is great at Kingston Park to play in front of them.”
Head coach John Wells spoke of his delight at Latu’s new deal, saying of the back-row forward: “Nili has been a fantastic presence.
“He does things his way which means we have to compromise a little bit in some areas, and so does he. But the intensity he brings to a game, his winning mentality and the physicality he shows has been a breath of fresh air. It has helped a lot of the other guys and given them a bit of a kick.
“He doesn’t have to say much, he does everything by his actions and it is an endorsement of the club that a guy of his quality is committing himself here. It is fantastic news, he has had a great first season and I am sure we will get more out of him next season, as well as Nili getting even more out of the people around him.”
Latu, who captained Tonga against New Zealand at St James’ Park during last year’s Rugby World Cup, is part of the Newcastle squad hoping to end the season in style on Saturday when his side plays host to northern rivals Sale Sharks.
He said: “We have a tight unit here with the boys, we have great leaders and a top coaching staff. It is so easy to work within this group because we are all there for each other, and we want to finish this season on a strong note.
“It has been a long season with the Rugby World Cup and everything at the beginning, but I’m glad I’m here and am looking forward to finishing this year with a win before turning to what lies ahead.
“It has been a tough year but I see great things for this club. We have great young players, the season hasn’t gone the way we wanted but the fight we have shown week in, week out, has been great. We are happy we are still in the Aviva Premiership, I am sure we are going to learn from this season and get things right for the future.
“In terms of Saturday Sale’s mind-set will be on winning the game, given what they have to play for. They want a strong finish to their season but so do we. We have a lot of players leaving and we want to do it for our fans as a way of thanking them for all the love they have shown us. The way we do that is by putting our body on the line and getting a victory.”
Tickets for Saturday’s game are available by calling 0871 226 6060 or by clicking here . Anyone buying an adult or concession ticket is eligible for two free under-11s tickets.