McGuigan looking for a kickstart at Falcons
GEORGE McGUIGAN reports for duty at Newcastle tomorrow hoping to put a frustrating final season at Leicester behind him.
The dual-qualified Yorkshire-born hooker, who has played age-group rugby for Ireland and represented England Saxons, left the Falcons for the Tigers in the summer of 2016 and was a regular in the team in his first season at Welford Road.
However, injuries and the mid-season arrival of Wallabies star Tatafu Polota-Nau limited him to just seven appearances in 2017/18 and it was not a hard decision to re-join Dean Richards’ high-flying Falcons.
“Newcastle have been taking leaps and bounds forward each season,” McGuigan said. “They are a club that seems to be going places and I’ve still got a lot of close friends and family up there, so it seemed like the logical choice.
“The first season went pretty well at Tigers, I played 28 games and probably wasn’t expecting to play that much.
“My second year started really well but I broke my thumb in the first game of the year and then I came back and played six games but hurt my neck and was out for five months. So it was a frustrating second season.
“Once Polota-Nau was brought in, I was always seen as third-choice and I didn’t want that. I could live with being secondchoice pushing for first but when they signed an 82-cap international it was quite a hard position for a younger player like myself to be in.”
Newcastle and Leicester were seen as poles apart when highly-rated McGuigan made his initial decision to move to the Midlands to further his career. But with the Falcons finishing above the Tigers in the Premiership table last season and making great strides forward as a club, that gap has narrowed in the intervening two years.
“There was a little bit of interest here and there but, to be honest, my heart was always set on going back to Newcastle,” McGuigan added.
“I think the big thing about Newcastle is that they are a really close group of friends who have grown up and played together. That is a good environment to play in, and it is quite similar to Exeter and the way they have built their team with young lads coming through and being the core of their team.”
With his former mentors, Scott Lawson and Rob Vickers now retired, McGuigan and fellow Tigers recruit, Logovi’i Mulipola, will form part of a new-look front row at Kingston Park.
McGuigan, 25, expects the Samoan prop to make a big impact on Tyneside.
“Logo is obviously a great signing with the fact he plays both sides. He is immense in the loose and he is a very, very good scrummager. I think he is an exceptional signing for Newcastle because, even though they had the highest percentage of delivery, they struggled in the scrum and never really had that dominant scrum.”
Returning to Newcastle: Former Tigers hooker George McGuigan
New Falcon: Logovi’i Mulipola