McGuigan look­ing for a kick­start at Fal­cons

The Rugby Paper - - News - By JON NEW­COMBE

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.”

PIC­TURE: Getty Images

Re­turn­ing to New­cas­tle: For­mer Tigers hooker Ge­orge McGuigan

New Fal­con: Lo­govi’i Mulipola

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