Mike Delany: Newcastle Falcons move spoke the right language

By Matt NewsumBBC Sport
Mike Delany
Mike Delany played in Clermont's Top 14 and European Champions Cup finals last season
Aviva Premiership
Starts: Friday, 16 October Final: Saturday, 28 May 2016 (Twickenham)
Coverage: Local BBC Radio coverage and live text commentary on every match of the opening weekend of the season.

On the surface it seems an odd decision by former All Black Mike Delany to depart one of France's biggest clubs - Clermont Auvergne - for the rigours of Premiership life at Newcastle Falcons.

He leaves a club whose end of season rituals tend to include a final or two, for one whose fans the past decade have usually bitten beyond their nails to the knuckle by the time their battle against relegation is over.

Yet there are no regrets for the stand-off.

"It's something new and it's definitely a big change from living in France," the New Zealander told BBC Sport.

"I'm loving it here - there's a great bunch of boys, a professional set-up and I'm really impressed with everything, the city is great."


Mike Delany
Delany won his one full All Blacks cap against Italy in November 2009

Newcastle is just the latest stop of a career spanning rugby union's different continents, having initially honed his craft in the Super 15s with New Zealand-based Hurricanes and Chiefs.

Globetrotting has brought financial reward and professional satisfaction, but lifestyle is very much at the heart of his Falcons move.

"I spent a couple of years in Japan and a couple in France," Delany explained. "The language is tough and it does get frustrating at times.

"I'm coming to the end of my career so I would like to finish here, playing good rugby and relax a bit with things outside of rugby.

"Especially with my family, it suited us."

Ticking off the bucket list

While there is a job to be done on the pitch, off it the Delanys are looking forward to exploring their new surroundings.

Mike will be spending many an hour on a coach heading to various grounds with the Falcons, who are based further north than any other Premiership club - but the Rotorua native also has his own travel plans.

"England's great and I want to get to see the place," he said. "I've got a fiancee and a 15-month-old baby, so things are pretty busy, but when we can we want to get around the area.

"It's going to be a much easier lifestyle, a good change and hopefully it will help my rugby out as well."

'Delany don't surf'

Carl Hayman
Ex-All Black tighthead Carl Hayman was one of the big names to join Newcastle in the 2000s

New Zealand to Newcastle has been a relatively well trodden path for rugby union players since the game turned professional, with Carl Hayman, Jimmy Gopperth and Mike Sorensen among the Kiwis to have tackled North East life.

Gopperth in particular was a big fan of the surfing opportunities, although not everyone is so keen.

"I come from a pretty warm place in NZ with a nice beach. I went to Tynemouth the other day and it was awesome to be out by the coast and I hear a few boys are into their surfing," Delany said.

"But it looked pretty cold. I'm not that desperate to get out there, but it's nice to be near the coast. The option's always there, but I'll probably be having a coffee instead."

'Life in the legs'

Mike Delany tackles Bryan Habana in the European Champions Cup final
Mike Delany came off the bench for Clermont in two finals last season and won two runners-up medals

Even at 33, Delany was a regular for Clermont last season, appearing from the bench in both the European Champions Cup final loss to Toulon and the Top 14 final defeat by Stade Francais.

It could be easy to see the Kingston Park move as a possible step down from such heights, but again Delany rejects that notion.

"I think it's just different, the French style is different," he said.

"I prefer a quicker game and to play a bit more, but in France it's tough because it's a more negative game at times.

"I'm not too sure how the Premiership is going to go. The way [Newcastle coach] Dave Walder wants to play the game, and from what I saw last year they definitely play an exciting brand of rugby that I'm looking forward to."

Bringing back the spark

There was a time when the roll-call at Newcastle Falcons could have doubled up as a 'Rest of the World' select, with international players such as Matt Burke, Hayman and Owen Finegan heading to the club from the southern hemisphere.

Then it dried up as the stars were sold to balance the books and it eventually resulted in a slide into the Championship in 2012.

Under Dean Richards, promotion was secured back to the top tier at the first attempt and a balance has been struck between major imports like Delany, Italy lock Josh Furno and Sinoti Sinoti and home-grown products such as George McGuigan, Simon Hammersley and Chris Harris.

"There's a lot of great players here, especially in the backs, so it's going to be a tough fight for positions," Delany said.

"Hopefully we can build together a backline as a team and hopefully I can find some form and put my stamp on how we play and it will benefit the team."