It’s been a long road back to Aviva Premiership Rugby for Mark Atkinson – but the Gloucester Rugby centre says he now intends to stick around for the long term.
Atkinson had stints at Sale Sharks and Wasps before moving down the ladder to Esher in 2011 and then Bedford Blues in 2012.
However, the 24-year-old fought his way back to the top-flight and earned himself a move to the Cherry & Whites at the start of this season.
Since then Atkinson has battled his way into the starting fold and posted a series of impressive performances, racking up 80 minutes in six of Gloucester’s last seven Aviva Premiership Rugby outings.
And, while Atkinson might not be entirely accustomed to starting at 13, he insists he is more than happy to be able to do a job for the team.
“For me it’s been great to get back to the Premiership and recently to have been able to get so many minutes under my belt,” he said.
“It’s a position I haven’t played before but there are lots of cross-over skills and having internationals all around me makes it a lot easier for me.
“Plus I have Billy inside me and he has played there before so all that makes the transition better, and if it means I play then I’m happy to do it.
“I would like to think that now I’m back in the Premiership it’s somewhere that I’ll be able to stay.
“It has taken a long time to get back here and I’m loving it now that I am. I wouldn’t want to lose that.”
It wasn’t the easiest start to the Aviva Premiership Rugby season for Gloucester who only won four of their opening 11 fixtures.
However, the second-half of the season could be much more fruitful with Atkinson and co already notching up narrow wins against Exeter Chiefs and Saracens since the turn of the year.
And, with a break from league action the centre believes his team can capitalise on their momentum.
Currently sitting atop of their European Challenge Cup group, the Cherry & Whites have the chance to clinch top-spot when they entertain Oyonnax next time out – something Atkinson is relishing.
“It was massive for us to get back-to-back wins in the Premiership and especially in the manner that we did it.
“The coaches would probably say that we didn’t need that two weeks in a row and it might have been hard for the fans but it’s great for us.
“Games have slipped away from us but we showed our strength to get over the line in those matches.
“I think that heading into the break it’s nice to be able to put the Premiership to bed knowing we are in a better position.
“We can take that momentum with us and not worry about maybe not having won for a while.
“Now we are in a good position in Europe and we’ll go out there knowing that we have a chance to qualify and hopefully do that.”
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