Nick Easter is a veteran of 15 seasons as a player but he is facing a unique new Gallagher Premiership challenge as Newcastle’s defence coach following their return to the top flight of English rugby.
Easter will use the coaching experience he gained with the Sharks in Super Rugby to help Dean Richards, the Falcons director of rugby, prepare for next season which may not start until mid-way through November. That means an unprecedented four months build-up for Easter and his new club and the chance to run the rule over opposition who have yet to complete the current, pandemic interrupted season.
The Premiership season restarts on August 14 with his former club Harlequins taking on second-placed Sale Sharks and there are still nine rounds of regular season matches plus the playoffs to complete. That means Easter and the Falcons, who have gained promotion from the Championship, are going to have plenty of material on next season’s opponents as the plot their campaign.
He told RugbyPass: “We will be able to watch the remaining Premiership games of this season with an analytical eye and see the current trends without the pressure of week in week out preparation for games. It will be a more relaxed forum with an eye on taking advantage of what you see about teams and individuals. It should provide more intelligence and dossiers on what is going on in the game and the opponents. It will be of real benefit.”
The former England captain who led his country to the Six Nations title in 2011, played under Richards at Harlequins during his career which won him 54 caps and made a record 281 appearances for the club. However, Easter has never experienced a pre-season like the one Falcons are undertaking. The 41-year-old is currently in Portugal, will have to self-isolate with his young family for two weeks and then report for duty in the North East.
Easter, who took over the defence role at Quins after retiring in 2016, spent two years coaching in South Africa with the Sharks’ Super Rugby and Currie Cup teams and jumped at the chance to join Richards at the Falcons. He explained: “Working with Dean was a big factor and he is a true rugby guy and I owe a lot to him in terms of my own playing career and how quickly I played for England after he joined Quins. I have always kept in touch with Dean and he is direct and loyal and he is not a bureaucrat.
“He rang me just before we left for Portugal and asked what I was up to and I had been doing some consultancy but COVID-19 ended that and I was waiting for the right opportunity to get back into coaching. He then phoned a week later and asked how I fancied it (the Newcastle job). It is important that you have a good boss who can build a culture and get the best out of each other with high standards. He is one of the best in the business, has been at the very top with Leicester and Harlequins and also went through that fateful time (Bloodgate) and got Newcastle into the top four and then up from the Championship a couple of times.
“He is a guy who doesn’t get flustered, looks at the bigger picture and throws a few curveballs in there to keep you on your toes. I have spoken to Dean and Dave Walder and the idea is to get cracking with the rugby by the end of August which is earlier than it would normally start in a pre-season period. We have to look at it as a blessing and benefit and the first competitive game of next season is looking to be around November 21 and we can use this period to bed in systems, ideals and philosophies while getting to know the squad. It also allows a lot more time to play pre-season friendly matches.”
Easter is already equipped to provide information on Sale Sharks who boast key members of the Super Rugby Sharks squad that he worked with in Durban including the three du Preez brothers Rob, Dan and Jean-Luc. “The Premiership is a very physical and attrition league and they have put a very physical squad together with all the Sharks boys plus Manu Tuilagi joining: “ added Easter. “We know it is a collision game and about the gain line and you want to make it as simple as possible. They had a good win at Exeter before lockdown.
“Toby Flood is at Newcastle and I played a lot of games with him and he is a North East boy. He is a senior figure and there is a lot of talent in the North of England which I don’t think necessarily gets recognised as quite as quickly and part of my job is to grow rugby, talent spot and also push players who have the potential for international honours. Mark Wilson was banging on the England door for a couple of season before they realised how important he was.”
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