Canadian lock Evan Olmstead is uniquely qualified to help drag Newcastle away from the relegation trap door with just three Gallagher Premiership matches left for the north east England club to save themselves.
Olmstead faced a similar three-game shoot-out with Canada in Marseille in November when they needed to defeat Kenya, Hong Kong and Germany to grab the 20th and final qualifying spot for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The heavily-bearded Olmstead, who was brought back from New Zealand to bolster Newcastle’s forward power at the most crucial point of the season, believes that experience of delivering under pressure can help the Falcons survive.
The 28-year-old, 6ft 6in forward left Newcastle at the end of last season and headed to Auckland, helping them win the Mitre 10 Premiership Cup for the first time since 2007.
He was also part of the wider Blues Super rugby squad before Dean Richards, Falcons director of rugby, called to offer him a route back into the Premiership and high quality rugby in the build-up to the World Cup campaign.
Excited to be back! https://t.co/PPHd2y9Lnb
Olmstead is well aware of the ramifications of relegation on and off the pitch for Newcastle and they must defeat an improving Northampton team at Kingston Park on Friday night, then Gloucester (away) and Bristol (home).
The Canadian, who played at the 2015 World Cup, said: “When I left we were in the Premiership play-offs last season and now it’s about staying alive. It’s about fighting for your job, your life and the organisation. Going down brings a lot of consequences. No-one has their head in the sand and our mindset is still positive. We will keep working hard.
“With Canada we had three games to qualify for the World Cup and there are many similarities with our current position at Newcastle. We went to Marseille knowing we had to get three from three and we did that. It’s the same now. If we can do the business we should be okay because I can’t see the other teams near us winning all of theirs.“
With no relegation worries in New Zealand rugby, Olmstead experienced a totally different mindset with players prepared to take the kind of chances not regularly seen in the Premiership.
He explained: “It’s completely different in New Zealand. The attacking and defensive philosophy and the emphasis is on skills and decision making rather than set-piece.
“It’s all about having a go and running with the ball because there is no relegation which means it’s high risk high reward while here it’s a more conservative game. I learnt about how to react to different players.
“Over here you could have a couple of players in the team who are bit random like Sinoti Sinoti or Niki Goneva in our squad, but over in New Zealand the whole back line is like that and so you have to get used to guys doing things that would be considered rogue over here. It was quite an experience.
“Going to the World Cup, hopefully we can ruffle a few feathers and we’re not going there just to turn up. We’re in a pool with New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Namibia.
“At the last tournament I’d just broken into the Canada team and getting as much first-team action as possible in a high performance environment is really important leading into Japan.”
Watch: The Academy – Part Two
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