Gateshead Thunder: Prop Jason Payne 'excited' by play-off return

Thunder double header excites Payne

Captain Jason Payne says Gateshead Thunder are excited rather than anxious about Sunday's Championship One play-off semi-final against Hemel Stags.

Thunder have not featured in the play-offs or promotion since winning their current division in 2008.

Payne told BBC Look North: "We've a big week in front of us but we're all looking forward to the opportunity.

"It's going to be a big day for the club all round and we can't wait to get stuck in on Sunday."

The game will take place at cross-code neighbours Newcastle Falcons' Kingston Park home, the scene of their championship-winning victory against Doncaster six years' ago.

Falcons' owner Semore Kurdi completed his takeover of the league club earlier this year and this the first time since that the two clubs have put on a double-header - with the Thunder game taking place after the Premiership visit of London Irish.

"I've played here a couple of times with Gateshead and the atmosphere has always been outstanding," Payne said.

"When you double that up with the fact it's a huge game for the club as well, it's really exciting.

"Hopefully we'll get a decent crowd stop behind after the Falcons game and, with our loyal fans coming along as well, it puts a bigger stage for us."