USA lock Greg Peterson has been a mainstay of Newcastle Falcons’ flying start to the season, starting all five of their Gallagher Premiership games to help them sit second in the table.
We caught up with the former Glasgow and Bordeaux man to find out how he is enjoying his second season on Tyneside.
Q: You came to us last autumn straight from the Rugby World Cup when the season had already started, how different has the build-up been to your second campaign?
GP: Yeah, completely different. It’s been nice having the long break, although obviously not in the kind of circumstances that anyone would have wanted. You have to find the positives in these situations, though, and to have so much time with my young family and then a proper pre-season with the club – it’s been really good. I’m just enjoying the whole thing, the boys are all working hard and we’ve made a good start to the season on the back of it.
Q: How was the first lockdown for you last spring and summer – did you stay local or head back home to Australia?
GP: We hunkered down in Newcastle, because we just didn’t see the point in trying to get back home. Our daughter Lucy was six or seven months old when lockdown first came in, so aside from everything that was obviously going on with Covid, it was great to have the opportunity to watch her develop and change during that whole time. Training went on the decrease for a few months and it was pretty much just family time, which was fantastic.
Q: To then be able to have such a long pre-season with the Gallagher Premiership not starting until November, has that ever happened to you before?
GP: Yeah, back in Australia we’ve had some massive pre-seasons, running to 18 or 19 weeks. I’ve had that experience, which maybe helped a bit, but it was necessary to get us where we needed to be when we reached the starting line for the Premiership down at Bath. With having so much down time you do lose some of the gains you’ve made prior to your break, and it’s vital that you put that work in.
Q: Our first game in pre-season was the defeat away to Ealing, which seems topical following their victory over Saracens last weekend. What were the guys thinking after that result?
GP: It was a mixed bag of a game because we did some good things, but our discipline killed us. Any team that hasn’t played rugby in nine months is going to have those issues, and to be fair to Ealing they really came strongly at us. They had a good game plan and executed it well on the day, so we couldn’t argue with the result. They showed a level of precision that we weren’t able to on that occasion, and deserved their win. As you say, they’ve just beaten Saracens at the weekend, so they’re not a bad side.
Q: Not that you ever want to lose a game, but with the benefit of hindsight was it useful to have a result like that, considering how well the team have rebounded from it?
GP: No, it’s never useful to lose a game, but if we’re taking positives from it then it definitely gave us a real focus on where our mentality needed to be. We were crystal clear on how we wanted to play when we started the season down at Bath, and I suppose the loss at Ealing showed us what can happen if we’re not where we need to be in terms of precision and discipline.
Q: You had a few months at Leicester Tigers earlier in your career, but how good does it feel to be properly into a Premiership season, and playing a big part in things?
GP: This is far better than when I was at Leicester. I was basically holding tackle bags and doing fitness all day when I was there, but I’m playing most weeks here and feeling really involved. It’s been great for me to have that continuity, and loving all the different challenges every week. Every team in the Premiership is difficult in their own way, and it’s interesting to test yourself in terms of solving that puzzle. We’re working on really specific things in training and then looking to implement them in games, which is really pleasing when it comes off. The coaching is good and I’m being pushed, and we’re seeing some early rewards from it in terms of our results.
Q: A lot of the success this season has been attributed to the forward pack, and the foundation that the tight five are giving the team. How pleasing is it to be a big part of that?
GP: Micky Ward (forwards coach) and Scott MacLeod (line-out coach) have been absolutely hounding us all summer, and that work is bearing fruit. There are still some areas we need to improve on, and you’re never the finished article. Considering how hard we’ve worked and the level of dominance we’ve had, we still haven’t scored enough tries. I think Micky is losing sleep over the fact our driving maul hasn’t delivered anywhere near enough tries, and if we can start adding things like that into our game then it’s just another way in which we can hurt teams.
Q: We’re in the middle of a two-week spell without a game due to the European situation, and as much as you never want matches to be cancelled has it actually been useful to get this type of break in the middle of a season?
GP: Yeah, definitely. I’m just working on a few things physically to fine tune the body, and when you’re in season you don’t normally get that chance. You’re playing week in, week out, and it’s hard to get time for quality extras in terms of your conditioning because your body can’t handle it as much. These two weeks are giving me the opportunity to step up in a couple of areas which will help my body later on in the season, and you’ve just got to think long term like that when these breaks pop up.
Q: Our next game is away at London Irish in the Gallagher Premiership on January 31, have you had much of a look at Irish yet on the video, and what do you expect down there?
GP: I watched their last game at Harlequins on TV, and I’ve had a look at their line-outs, but we’ll get into that in a bit more detail nearer the time. It’s nothing too crazy in terms of the analysis we do, and I think the main thing we’ve found is that working on our own game rather than over-analysing the opposition is the best way to go. If we all know our roles inside-out then we’re in a great position to implement the game plan the coaches have put in place, and we’re a very hard team to beat when we do that.