Head coach Dave Walder has hailed club captain Will Welch as the open-side prepares for his 200th Newcastle Falcons appearance on Sunday.
The 27-year-old will skipper the Falcons in their 3pm kick-off against Leicester Tigers, Walder saluting a player he has known from a young age.
“Since I came back to the club I have seen a real growth in Will,” said the former England fly-half, who won the Premiership title, European Cup and a pair of domestic cups during a successful playing career.
“We actually grew up on the same street but he wasn’t allowed to play football with us because he wasn’t co-ordinated enough!
“No, but all joking aside it’s an absolutely brilliant achievement for him to reach a double hundred when he’s only just 27, and even more amazing when you think he’s in his sixth season captaining the club.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him as a bloke and he’s very uncompromising as a player. He leads from the front, the guys here love him and he sets the tone for the squad in everything he does.”
Expecting a stern test from the Tigers, Walder said: “The mood in the camp is one of excitement more than anything else.
“We’re expecting a tough game, it’s always physical against Leicester and they play a very confrontational game. They’ve got a bit of star-dust sprinkled in their backs but if we match them up front we’ve got every chance of winning.”
Faced with a difficult selection as they return to league action following a fortnight in the Challenge Cup, Walder said: “Europe has been good because a lot of the lads have come in and got some game time, and it has been good getting them up to speed.
“We had a bit of momentum behind us after that first six-week block in the Premiership and fortunately we’ve managed to carry that on with a couple of good wins in the Challenge Cup at home to Dragons and away against a strong Bordeaux side who don’t lose very often at their place.”
With Toby Flood starting the first Premiership game of his second spell at the club, the head coach explained the decision, saying: “When Mike Delany went home last year we earmarked the fact we needed to recruit someone with a bit more experience in that area, and Floody was available.
“I had quite a few long conversations with him talking about the vision of the club and where we intended to go with it, he seemed keen to be a part of that and determined to help us steer it.
“Unfortunately he got injured during pre-season, Joel Hodgson and Craig Willis came in and did a great job and got us off to a really good start, but over the last few weeks we’re starting to get a glimpse of what Floody can offer.
“He has played a couple of games now and we just feel the time is right for him to take over the mantle against his old club.”
Set to welcome their first capacity crowd of 10,100 in more than nine years, Walder added: “It’s brilliant here when it’s a full house or anywhere near.
“The Geordie sporting passion is renowned around the world, our supporters really get behind the lads and everyone feeds off it.
“Our crowds up here are very fair with the team, they appreciate guys who wear their heart on their sleeve and who give a passionate performance for the region, and hopefully that work ethic can deliver us a win.”