Tom Penny has spoken of his delight at returning home, the 25-year-old centre signing a two-year deal with Newcastle Falcons ahead of their 2020/21 Gallagher Premiership return.

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The Northumbrian – a product of the Falcons academy who had scored five tries in his 39 appearances for the club – has gone back to Kingston Park after a Premiership and Champions Cup stint last season with Harlequins.

“It’s really good to be back,” said Penny. “It hasn’t been that long in reality so everything is still familiar, but I have started back with the rest of the squad and it’s a great feeling.”

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Director of rugby Dean Richards added: “Tom is a real talent who has enjoyed some high-level rugby during his brief time away. He knows our systems inside out and is a local lad who plays the game with pace and aggression, so it was a no-brainer when we had the chance to bring him back into the fold.”

Penny believes Newcastle will be Premiership-ready when they return to the top flight on the weekend of November 20, the squad this week starting their official pre-season training programme.

“We’re in the good position of having a few months to get in a proper pre-season before the Premiership starts and we’re now getting stuck into that,” he said. “We had day one on Monday, which was just training in small groups after having our Covid tests. 

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“It will be like that for a couple of weeks while we get all the results through and all that, but we have started the gym and the field work which is really the foundation for what will follow as the season gets closer.”

Having played a part in Falcons’ Championship promotion campaign before his winter switch to London, Penny added: “I was obviously keeping an eye on Newcastle’s results while I was away – firstly because I’m a Falcons fan, and then obviously with just wanting my mates and the club to do well.

“It was great to see them ploughing on and claiming that unbeaten record when the season was brought to a close in March, and there is no doubt in my mind they were always a Premiership club.

“The Championship is a tough league and the boys really had to graft all the way through, but they proved more than up to that challenge and fully deserved their promotion when it was confirmed.”

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Regarding his experience at Harlequins, Penny said: “I’ve always thought that rugby is a good way to travel, see the world and take in different experiences, so in that sense being at Harlequins for a few months was a positive thing.

“You learn from all the coaches and players you work with, and I’m sure I will have picked up little bits from the likes of Sean Long, Nick Evans and all the guys I played with down there.

“That’s not to say it was massively different to Newcastle, because professional rugby is broadly the same wherever you are, but if I’ve brought back a couple of bits and bobs to use with the Falcons this coming season then all the better.”

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