Samoan prop Logovi’i Mulipola believes his decision to take a short term contract with Gloucester rather than enduring an eight month wait for rugby action has helped him power Newcastle Falcons into second place in the Gallagher Premiership.
The Falcons have defied pre-season predictions that they would be favourites for relegation back to the Championship after they returned to the top flight when the season was ended early in March due to the impact of COVID-19. That meant the Newcastle players had to endure being furloughed and then put on restricted training for eight months while the rest of the Premiership finished their regular season.
Mulipola, whose wild hair remains his trademark, recognised the dangers that would involve and asked Dean Richards, the Falcons director of rugby, to allow him the chance to sort out a short term deal to keep him playing. Having played more than 100 Premiership games for Leicester Tigers and another 22 times in Europe while winning the Premiership and Anglo-Welsh Cup, Mulipola knew what he had to do to be ready for action.
Mulipola, who joined Falcons in the summer of 2018 after seven seasons with Leicester Tigers, put in a typically physical shift in the 22-10 win over the Gloucester team that had helped keep him fit in the Falcons last match before the current two week break. He told RugbyPass: “The whole idea of going to Gloucester was about me finding something to do during that lockdown from March. There was going to be eight months before we played our first Premiership game and I was like I might as well find a club because match fitness is so hard.
“It was great to get a couple of games and train with Gloucester having also done some training with Leicester at their camp. When you don’t have games or full training then you are so bored sitting at home and I said to Dean (Richards) I am going to find some team to play to get the fitness level up. I am really thankful to Gloucester for the time there.
“If you haven’t been in a scrum for eight months you are going to come back and be saying “ how do I do this again?”. You forget about everything and this season I feel good and we train pretty tough during the week as a squad. We are now having a two week break but the boys mind set is not to be affected by anything.
“We know that people are not that bothered with Newcastle and we ignore the talk and just play for each other. It is good motivation to prove people wrong. I want to show that we can go something good.”
Newcastle’s player belt out the Blaydon Races after their victories and while Mulipola has been working on his Geordie accent, the lyrics still mystify him. “We have this song the Blaydon Races we sing and I just join in “dee de dee de dee” because I don’t know the words: “ he explained.
“Samoan singing is lots of different songs but this one in Newcastle is famous about a race long ago and I am going to have to ask the boys what it’s all about.
“ We have put in some good shifts at Bath and Wasps this season and were really unlucky at Bristol then won at home to Sale who have a really big pack.”
Mulipola, who is married to the sister of former Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni, has twin six-year-old boys who like their father are enjoying life in the North East despite the bitterly cold weather that is hitting the area. “It is really cold up here but my two boys love the snow and wear shorts. The twins are six-years-old and they love rugby and I always show them the videos about running straight.
“Going down to the Championship and then coming straight back up gave us real motivation. Mate, every team in the Championship gives it to you and you have to prepare because they work so hard. It was pretty tough. Having got back to the Premiership we are happy to be back with the big boys.”
Mulipola is excited about the changes that have taken place in Samoan rugby with former London Irish centre Seilala Mapusua taking over the 15s coaching and Brian” the chiropractor” Lima in charge of the sevens squad. Mulipola won the last of his 33 caps in the 2019 Rugby World Cup and has seen at first hand the roller-coaster ride that is Pacific Islands rugby.
He added: “I am really pleased an happy to hear the news about Maps and Brian getting those roles. I played with Maps and you are always wishing to have better coaching and stuff for the Pacific Islands teams and they are both really good guys. I am sure they going to do a good job.”