'If you haven't been in a scrum for 8 months you're going to come back and be saying, How do I do this again?'
Samoan prop Logovi’i Mulipola believes his decision to take a short-term contract at Gloucester rather than endure an eight-month wait in between games for Newcastle has helped him to power the Falcons into second place in the Gallagher Premiership.
Newcastle have defied pre-season predictions that they would be favourites for relegation straight back to the Championship after they returned to the top-flight when the tier-two season was ended early last March due to the impact of the pandemic.
That shutdown meant the Newcastle players had to endure being furloughed and were then put on restricted training for eight months while the rest of the Premiership finished the 2019/20 campaign, their season restarting in mid-August.
Mulipola, whose wild hair remains his trademark, recognised the dangers that would be involved in a lengthy layoff and he asked Dean Richards, the Newcastle director of rugby, to allow him the chance to sort out a short-term deal to keep him playing.
Having featured in more than 100 Premiership games for Leicester and another 22 in Europe while winning the Premiership and Anglo-Welsh Cup, Mulipola knew what he had to do to be ready for action in the 2020/21 Premiership season with Newcastle, the club he joined in 2018 after seven seasons at Tigers.
The soon-to-be 34-year-old Mulipola played three times while at Gloucester and the benefits of having that time away while Newcastle were inactive in between second tier and top tier seasons was evident in the Falcons’ recent 22-10 home win over Gloucester.
Taking time out from the Premiership’s current two-week break, Mulipola told RugbyPass: “The whole idea of going to Gloucester was about me finding something to do during that lockdown from March. There was going to be eight months before we played our first Premiership game and I was like, ‘I might as well find a club because match fitness is so hard’.
“It was great to get a couple of games and train with Gloucester having also done some training with Leicester at their camp. When you don’t have games or full training then you are so bored sitting at home. I said to Dean I’m going to find some team to play for to get the fitness level up. I’m really thankful to Gloucester for the time there.
“If you haven’t been in a scrum for eight months you’re going to come back and be saying, ‘How do I do this again?’ You forget about everything. This season I feel good and we train pretty tough during the week as a squad. We are now having a two-week break but the boys’ mindset is not to be affected by anything.
“We know that people are not that bothered with Newcastle and we ignore the talk and just play for each other. It’s good motivation to prove people wrong. I want to show that we can go something good.”
Newcastle’s players belt out the Blaydon Races after their victories and while Mulipola has been working on his Geordie accent, the lyrics still mystify him. “We have this song, the Blaydon Races, and I just join in ‘dee de dee de dee’ because I don’t know the words.
“Samoan singing has lots of different songs but this one in Newcastle is famous about a race long ago. I’m going to have to ask the boys what it’s all about. We have put in some good shifts at Bath and Wasps this season and were really unlucky at Bristol. We also won at home to Sale who have a really big pack.”
Married to the sister of former Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni, Mulipola has twin six-year-old boys who, like their father, are enjoying life in the north-east despite the bitterly cold weather that is currently hitting the area.
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“It’s really cold up here but my two boys love the snow and wear shorts. The twins are six-years-old and they love rugby. I always show them the videos about running straight. Going down to the Championship and then coming straight back up gave us real motivation.
“Mate, every team in the Championship gives it to you and you have to prepare because they work so hard. It was pretty tough. Having got back to the Premiership we’re happy to be back with the big boys.”
Mulipola is excited about the changes that have taken place in Samoan rugby with former London Irish centre Seilala Mapusua taking over coaching the Test team and Brian Lima in charge of the sevens squad. Mulipola won the last of his 33 caps at the 2019 World Cup and has seen at first-hand the roller coaster ride that is Pacific Islands rugby.
“I’m really pleased and happy to hear the news about Seilala and Brian getting those roles. I played with Seilala and you’re always wishing to have better coaching and stuff for the Pacific Islands teams. They are both really good guys. I’m sure they going to do a good job.”
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