Newcastle must use Six Nations gap : Hayman

Newcastle prop Carl Hayman has called on his Falcons team to use the Six Nations window as a Guinness Premiership springboard, as they look to continue their rise up the table.

The All Black great has skippered Newcastle to the top half of the league as well as winning their European group, but the iconic tight head is in no mood to start patting his team mates on the back just yet.

“The lads are all excited to be back in the Guinness Premiership, and to have a chance of finishing what we’ve started in this competition,” said the 30-year-old, whose side tests its unbeaten league record for the year with a trip to Northampton on Saturday.

It was the Falcons who dramatically prevented the Saints from going two years undefeated at home by virtue of their 19-13 win at Franklin’s Gardens this time last year, but Hayman played down the significance of that result as his side gears up for the rematch.

“We’d hit a bit of form going into that one, as I recall,” he said.

“We hit them early on with a few good tries and then basically hung on desperately for the last hour as they battered our line, so it was a good one for the boys to come through.

“That said, there’s been a big turnover in personnel for both teams since then so I don’t think the result will have any major bearing this time round. Last year is last year. It was nice at the time and it looks good in the history books, but this is a totally new challenge.”

Having been rested from Cup duty at Cardiff a fortnight ago and restricted to a bench outing last weekend at home to Wasps, Hayman revealed he is fresh and recharged for the resumption of league matters this weekend.

“It’s been a bit strange, but you can’t play every game and the coaches have done a great job looking after a few of the guys this past couple of weeks,” he said.

“It’s been a chance for a few wee niggles to get ironed out and to get some strength back in the old legs, as we look to go into the final stretch of the season with a full tank. It’s been different, but I feel good as a result.

With Saturday likely to throw up an intriguing front row tussle against giant loose head Soane Tonga’uiha, Hayman said of his opponent: “He’s a big bloke, that’s for sure.

“He’s probably regarded around the traps as one of the best loose heads in the Guinness Premiership, and rightly so in my opinion. He’s got a lot going for him. He can scrummage, and he’s a very good ball carrier. He gets around the park alright, but he’s just one of many assets that they have.

“The other one is probably our old captain, Phil Dowson… although Dows has paid me to say that!”

Playing down the significance of personal rivalries in a mouth-watering front row tussle, however, Hayman added: “I think people often make the mistake of just focusing on the props at the scrum, and they probably don’t really understand what goes on in there.

“It’s not really the individual battle it’s often made out to be. When a scrum goes forward everyone talks up the props, and when it goes backwards everyone points the finger the way of the props too.

“The reality is that it’s an eight-man effort, and you have guys behind you as well putting their full weight into it. That often seems to get overlooked when you hear people talking about the game or whatever, and they don’t always realise that the guys in the back five of the scrum are shoving every bit as hard as the front three. Every single forward has a role to play, and it’s probably been one of our strengths this season.”

Turning his hand to front row adviser as well as player, Hayman revealed he has been offering his expertise as fellow Falcon Matt Thompson continues his ongoing conversion from hooker to tight head prop.

“It’s a massive transition to make, but it’s something he’s really keen to do,” he said.

“It’s by no means an easy move, but he’s putting a hel

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