Newcastle Falcons' Will Welch is living proof that young rugby fanatics standing on the terraces watching the Falcons week-in-week-out can follow their dreams and one day play Aviva Premiership Rugby.
Will Welch grew up in the North East, attended Royal Grammar School Newcastle, watched the Falcons regularly and joined the club's academy as a teenager; becoming his beloved club's captain less than a decade later.
The flanker's rise to the top with Newcastle is what schoolboy dreams are made of and Welch has called on the next generation of North East sports stars to discover rugby, watch the Falcons in Aviva Premiership Rugby and follow in his footsteps.
“I still remember my first Aviva Premiership Rugby appearance,” said Welch. “All my friends and family were in the stands and it was very special. I grew up around Newcastle, this is my home club, I have watched them for a number of years and then to get the chance to run out and play for the first time was a huge, huge honour.
“My first try came against an Italian club in the European competition. It was just a simple run-in to the corner off the back of someone else's hard work but I will always remember it that's for sure.
“I used to watch a lot of Premiership games; I would stand up on the terraces; particularly as an academy player, I would get in. It was an open roof terrace but even on a rainy day it was a great place to be.”
Welch's interview was part of a new campaign from Premiership Rugby and Aviva to welcome new supporters to Aviva Premiership Rugby this season.
Welch is one of 12 club ambassadors – including Chris Robshaw, Danny Cipriani, James Haskell, Schalk Brits and Courtney Lawes – who are backing the ‘Aviva Premiership Rugby First Timers’ campaign.
As part of the campaign Aviva and the Premiership Rugby clubs have teamed up to give away almost 2,000 free tickets across every game in the first seven rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, from the start of the season right up to Christmas.
With rugby in England in the spotlight like never before, these tickets can only be claimed by supporters who have never been to an Aviva Premiership Rugby match.
Games available include the opening round clashes – Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester Rugby, Harlequins v Wasps, Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints, Bath Rugby v Exeter Chiefs, Saracens v Sale Sharks and London Irish v Leicester Tigers.
Attendances continue to rise in Aviva Premiership Rugby year-on-year as fans discover the joy of watching rugby weekly. And Welch, who has seen gates soar at his native Falcons by over 27% over the last season, insists that even in professional sport, the size and support of a home crowd can make all the difference for Dean Richards' troops.
“The fans make a huge difference, particularly last season the Newcastle Falcons support was unbelievable,” he added.
“The crowd figures have gone up on where they were previously. Just running out in front of your home crowd when it's full and it's noisy; it helps you get over the line against those tough teams when you need it most.”
The Aviva Premiership Rugby First Timers programme will give away almost 2,000 free tickets across every game in the first seven rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, from the start of the season right up to Christmas.