Nili Latu is no stranger to testing times on a rugby field and the Tonga captain is hoping his experience can help haul Newcastle Falcons up the Aviva Premiership Rugby standings in coming weeks.
Having plied his trade in Japan’s Top League and Super Rugby for ten years before his move to Tyneside, as well as turning out 49 times for Tonga, Latu is no stranger to having his back against the wall.
During the 33-year-old’s time in Japan, he experienced everything from challenging for the title to bottom-of-the-table battles with the NEC Green Rockets.
And with his new side currently propping up the Aviva Premiership Rugby standings heading into the business end of the season, he believes that he is ideal man to inspire a change in Newcastle’s fortunes.
“I guess my whole rugby career it has felt like I’ve played in sides that were up against it,” he said.
“Internationally with Tonga, and then in Japan as well, so this situation is nothing new to me. Those experiences taught me to get through the hard times.
“In those times you’ve just got to stay positive and get around your teammates, as you are only as strong as your weakest link, so that’s what I’ve been trying to pass on to the rest of the guys.
“There are a great bunch of guys here who are all playing for each other and putting their bodies on the line, and you can’t really ask for more than that.
“We’re not really concentrating on being at the bottom of the table, because if we work hard we know we are capable of winning any game, and the feeling in the camp is great.
“There’s still plenty more games to play, so survival is not a concern. If we train hard we believe we will get the wins and the league position will take care of itself.”
London Irish climbed above Newcastle last weekend following their narrow defeat at Wasps, where despite not conceding a try they went down 9-8.
The Falcons were punished as Andy Goode, returning to face his old club, missed three kicks from the tee – any of which would have changed the outcome of the match.
But Latu is already looking forward to this weekend’s clash with high-flying Leicester Tigers, and believes the Falcons are showing plenty for their fans to be encouraged by.
He said: “We’re disappointed that we lost the game but there were a lot of positives to take from it as well.
“We showed last week that we can more than compete with the best teams in this league, but we should not have let the game slip.
“At least we got a point out of it, there is a lot of time left in the season, and we’ve been working really hard on a defence all season so it was good to see us go up there and not concede any tries.
“We came to win that game, and we missed eight points from the tee so of course if they were all good it would have been a different game.
“But we still believe that we could have won it in those last couple of minutes, but we are staying positive, working hard and focusing on a win this weekend.”