Richard Mayhew is eagerly anticipating the start of next week’s J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Series at Franklin’s Gardens.
The tough nut flanker, 28, who lifted the trophy at the Twickenham Stoop in 2011, was unable to help his side defend their title the following year due to relegation to the RFU Championship.
And the former North Harbour hit-man is relishing the prospect of getting his hands on the prize once again as his side take on Leicester Tigers, Sale Sharks and hosts Northampton Saints in the first stage of the series.
“It’s really exciting to be back, and I think the boys were missing it a bit last year and they can’t wait to get playing as it’s a great run-out ahead of the new season,” said Mayhew.
The northeasterners blew away the rest of the field during their victorious 2011 7s campaign which saw them defeat Saracens 31-21 in the final.
Mayhew believes the Falcons are in tip top shape to replicate that feat with the abundance of young talent at the club’s disposal.
He said: “When we won it in 2011 we didn’t have lots of raw pace as we’re a group of guys who worked really hard and gave their all – more of a group of grafters.
“We wanted to just express ourselves and have a good time and obviously the results just took care of themselves.
“This year could be slightly different as we’re mixing old faces in with younger guys so there’s a chance to see who can step up.
“I haven’t seen some of the younger guys play too much to be honest with you, but I know we have lots of speed this time in the likes of Joel Hodgson and Chris Harris, who are ones to look out for as they can really run.
“It’s hard to gauge if anyone broke through into the 15s from their performances last time but I think it helped Mark Wilson and Will Welch – they played last time and did pretty well, Chris Pilgrim was a regular but I remember him having a really good tournament.”
Embarking on the first stage of what is hoped to be the Falcons’ path to glory, Mayhew reveals the competition is a great way to prepare for the new Aviva Premiership season.
The Falcons welcome Bath Rugby to Kingston Park on the opening weekend of the season as Dean Richards makes his return to top-flight rugby.
“Obviously we had a very successful year in the Championship but the Premiership is a whole new prospect, and we have been working really hard but we are keeping level-headed,” said Mayhew.
He added: “Dean hasn’t got too involved so far as a lot of what we’re doing is strength-based stuff with the coaches but he chips in now and again and obviously you listen to what he says.
“We’ve also done a lot of team bonding and spending time together which really boosts team morale which I think is important with a tough season ahead.
“It’s not about surviving relegation or finishing as high as we can, it’s about one game at a time starting with Bath.”
The final of J.P Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s will be at The Recreation Ground, the home of Bath Rugby, on Friday 9 August. For tickets and more information visit: www.jpmorgan7s.com or follow @jpmorganrugby7s