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'If it was up to me I'd live on a little island and fish all day'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Out of favour England winger Adam Radwan was quick out of the blocks this week when quipping to RugbyPass that he had the perfect incentive to quickly get back to scoring tries for Newcastle before their season is over. In 13 appearances for the Falcons since the turn of the year, the 24-year-old has scored just twice – not the type of strike rate more usually associated with the flying back. 

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It’s a downturn reflected in his passion away from the game. Radwan loves his fly fishing, trying to catch salmon and sea trout, but his success with the rod has slowed to a trickle just like his Newcastle scoring. “Pretty poor luck recently but I still go, it’s all good fun, it’s very relaxing and I switch off from rugby,” he explained. 

It might be for the best then if he hung out with Dean Richards as his Falcons boss is another who likes the quiet life and regulartly tries to get some fish to bite. “I’m actually pestering him to take me,” he admitted. “I think he has got some good spots, so hopefully if I start scoring a few tries he will take me.”

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Mike Brown | Rugby Roots
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Mike Brown | Rugby Roots

What got Radwan onto the topic of fishing was his role this week as the Newcastle ambassador for the Restart charity run by the RPA. This weekend’s round of Gallagher Premiership fixtures is looking to raise awareness and funds to help support players facing serious injury, illness, or hardship while also covering the costs of a free confidential counselling service that players have access to. Being so young, the idea of planning a career after rugby is something far from Radwan’s thoughts just now.

“Honestly, I have no idea. If it was up to me I’d probably live on a little island and just fish all day. That is all I do in my spare time, I do a lot of fishing so I’d quite like to do that, but I’m probably not going to be able to so I don’t know what I’ll do. But it is important preparing for something after rugby however big or small it is and Restart is a fantastic charity. It’s a short career, it’s a very tough career, so for them to offer the support they do is amazing. It’s going to be a big weekend for them.”

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Perhaps for Radwan as well as Newcastle are at Sale on Friday night for their third last game of the season and he could do with scoring some tries before the campaign is over to remind Eddie Jones that form is temporary and class will always be permanent. It was last July when he burst onto the international scene, scoring a hat-trick on his Test debut versus Canada. He added to that highlights reel with another try in the November opener against Tonga but since then he hasn’t had a look-in, his role restricted to hours and hours of training with the squad. 

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So close yet so far away, a feeling only added to by the number of times Radwan trained with England in the early part of the week and then scrambled back to play for Newcastle at the weekend as he was unwanted for Test match duty. “A mixture of flights and trains,” he said about the challenge of getting back home as quickly as he could at short notice. “I love Newcastle as a city. I am pretty biased, it’s the best city in England but when you have to go anywhere like London it is like going to another country, so that was the only negative. 

“It was quite tough (juggling two teams in the same week) but it’s something you have to do and that is where being a professional comes into it. You have got to manage yourself, have got to manage your body, so if I am training down there with England when I get back to Newcastle I can’t do as much training up here because I have ticked that off down there during the week.

“It’s probably more of an onus on me to make sure I do my homework off the pitch. So if I am away for most of the week with England and then come back up here to play for Newcastle, if I am not training I need to watch plenty of footage and know what I am doing for the weekend.”

What stood out most with England? “Just like the level of it. You are playing and training with and against the best in the country so it is a level up on certain things. Everyone is faster, everyone is fitter, everyone is stronger so it is tough and then on the recovery side of things, the facilities were an eye-opener. They have got the best of everything so I just wanted to try everything and all the little things it had to offer.”

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Radwan struck up bonds last summer with Freddie Steward and Dan Kelly, while Raffi Quirke was another he got along really well during the subsequent England campaigns. They are all youngsters with giddy ambitions of enjoying reputable international careers but the stumbling block – according to Jones – is that the average length of a Test career with England is a mere seven appearances.

That is news to Newcastle boss Richards, the 58-year-old veteran of 48 England caps from 1986 through to 1996. “Sometimes it is luck, sometimes it is how you maturate and develop, it’s who the coach is sometimes, all these factors. I didn’t know that the average length of a career is seven caps. If you had told me when I was on zero that I would get seven caps I would have been absolutely delighted,” said the director of rugby who is expecting a late-season flourish from Radwan.   

He wants to play to the best of his ability. There are tours, there is a World Cup next year to look at as well as playing for us and scoring tries. He just likes getting out there with the ball in hand, making a break and scoring tries. It has been a little bit difficult over the last three or four months as we have not been on fire from that side of things, but it won’t be long before he gets back into the groove.”  

Radwan attested to Richards’ encouragement. “He just wants me to get my hands on the ball, to get my hands on the ball as much as I can. He has kind of given me more licence to go looking for it and things like that. Not going out of the system but giving me a little more freedom within that to go and do what I am capable of doing.

“As a winger, I don’t want to get too tied up in trying to be a complete rugby player. I’m going to be an out-and-out winger. I don’t think I’ll play anywhere else. My thing will always be finishing, so when I get an opportunity I want to finish them and I work on that a lot. I still have to have a basic requirement of skills – whether it’s kicking, catching, passing, stuff like that. But I don’t necessarily want to be an all-rounder. I’m still going to be very much focussed on being an out-and-out finisher.”

What about the increased limelight for Radwan this past year in being an England player living in Newcastle? “As a person, as we all do when you broaden your horizons a little bit, you become a little bit more streetwise savvy, confident,” suggested Richards. “Your personality does change a little bit and you look at the situations in a slightly different way. But you are probably better off asking him how he feels.”

We did. “In and around Newcastle, I get noticed a little bit more,” admitted radwan. “The game is definitely growing and it [the recognition] is a good sign that the game is growing and there are more people aware of it.” Now for a few more tries and that desired day out fishing with his coach.

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