Scottish international prop Jon Welsh will pack down with Newcastle Falcons for another two seasons after signing a new deal with the Kingston Park club.
The 32-year-old tight-head was a mainstay for the Falcons during their fourth-placed Premiership finish in 2017-18, but spent the entire 2018-19 season on the sidelines through injury.
Now close to fitness and looking to make a big impact on the club’s promotion push, the 12-times-capped Scotland prop is delighted to have the opportunity to add to his 57 appearances for the club which he joined in the summer of 2015 from Glasgow Warriors.
Welsh said: “Newcastle Falcons have shown loyalty to me, and it’s important I show the same back to them.
“A big part of my decision around staying here was based on how well the club have looked after me, and I feel like I need to repay them for their faith as well as repaying the fans who pay to come and watch us. That kind of backing makes you want to go out and work every single day, to keep trying your hardest and doing your absolute best, and it wouldn’t have felt right leaving after everything the club have done for me.
“Last season was by far the most frustrating year of my rugby career in terms of having a calf tear, then a knee operation and two blood clots. It has been hard sitting on the sidelines for so long and not being able to affect things on the field, but I’m training hard now and I should be back for the start of pre-season.
“Dealing with setback after setback during a long rehab has been hard, but you’ve just got to keep working and keep knowing that it will all be worth it in the end when you get back playing.”
Having to sit in the stands during a difficult season, Welsh said: “We’ve had a lot of experienced guys out for long periods of time when you think about myself, Will Welch, Josh Matavesi, Mark Wilson and Rodney Ah You to name just a few, and even younger guys like Joel Hodgson, Sean Robinson and Tom Penny all having long-term injuries.
“I think being without those players had a big say in how the season unfolded in terms of being relegated, but I honestly believe the squad we have here now is better than when I joined the club four years ago.”
Approaching this season’s Championship promotion push with typical pragmatism, the Scot insists the Falcons are more than equipped to absorb the blow of dropping down a division.
“We’ve been relegated, and we’ve just got to take our medicine,” said Welsh.
“Everyone at the club agrees that last season was unacceptable, but this is where we are. We have to take it on the chin and approach every single game in the Championship just as we would do if it were a Premiership match. We’ve got a job to do, we’ll attack every game and just be ruthless in terms of our focus and professionalism.”
Director of rugby Dean Richards echoed Welsh’s enthusiasm, saying: “We missed the experience of players like Jon last season, having been such an integral part of the side which took us to fourth in the Premiership the year before.
“He has worked very hard behind the scenes over the past year, it’s great that we will have him on board once again and we look forward to benefiting from all of his knowhow on the field.”