Scottish international John Hardie says he’s grateful to French giants Clermont who took him in over the summer after being effectively exiled from Scotland.
While Hardie did not win a contract at the Top14 outfit, he says he is thankful to the side that effectively saved his career.
In October of last year Scottish Rugby and Edinburgh suspended Hardie from selection for both club or country, but gave no details on why the 29-year-old was not being considered. As a result he missed the 2017 November Tests against Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
It was widely reported that the suspension came following a club social which got out of hand, with several players enjoying themselves a little too much. While he returned to play for Edinburgh following the suspension, he was released at the end of last season.
Prior to his release Clermont had in fact contacted the 16 times capped Scot. The club and the player struck a dealt that saw him undergo back surgery, followed by rehabilitation at the French giant’s base in the south of France.
If he could prove his fitness they would sign him, with the club telling RugbyRama at the time: “Our relationship is clear: if he is fit, he will sign.”
Ultimately they didn’t sign him, but they got him back on track physically. Now impressing with the Newcastle Falcons, Hardie was glowing in his praise of the French side.
“Spending the summer with Clermont was a really good experience,” said Hardie. “They’ve got a top-class facility over there, they had a big medical team which helped me with my rehab and even though things didn’t go to plan in terms of getting a contract there I thank them for all the help they gave me and everything I learnt.
“The fact that I was in good shape as a result of being over in Clermont meant that when the Newcastle opportunity came around I was ready to take it, and I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far.”
Hardie is now enjoying a new lease of life with Newcastle Falcons.
“The boys are great here, they’re very down to earth and I really enjoy that. I’ve been made to feel very welcome, I’m enjoying my rugby and it’s been a great move. It’s a superb surface here at Kingston Park, the crowd get right behind us and like all the boys I love playing here.”
The Falcons face a visit from Gloucester to Kingston Park Stadium on Sunday.
“We didn’t achieve the two results we wanted against Edinburgh but there are definitely bits we can take from both games, especially in the first halves because we were leading at half-time on both occasions.
“Our accuracy let us down and we left a lot of points on the field, but there are certainly positive elements we can take from it going into the Gloucester game on Sunday.
“We created a lot of opportunities – last weekend alone we had five clean line-breaks – but we only converted one of them. Edinburgh were more clinical in scoring two tries from their three line-breaks, and it’s just those little things that we’ve been working really hard on to get it right.”
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“We know we’re going to be up against a really physical Gloucester team who have a lot of skill and pace out wide, they’re a really well-drilled and well-coached outfit and it’ll be an intense game.
“They’ve got threats in the back three and the midfield but we’ve got just as many, so as much as we’ll have our work cut out on the day, so will Gloucester.
“If your defence is really good when Gloucester are counter-attacking you can turn that into an opportunity for your own team, because turnover ball in that scenario is really dangerous.”
“As a seven you know you’re going to be absolutely stuffed at the end of every game, and you have to be putting your body on the line for the team,” said the former Highlanders and Edinburgh man.
“You’re involved in a lot of contacts as an open-side and a lot of phases of play, but that’s what I enjoy and I’m looking forward to that challenge this weekend.”
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