It is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks according to Newcastle Falcons’ Taione Vea, who is relishing his time alongside one of the most seasoned campaigners out there in Kensuke Hatakeyama.
Vea is still in his first season at Kingston Park, but has featured in 11 Aviva Premiership Rugby games for the Falcons so far.
The 27-year-old prop is no fresh-faced youngster, but admits playing alongside Hatakeyama – capped 72 times by Japan – in Newcastle’s front row is helping him to improve on a daily basis.
And with his side now bidding to climb as far as possible up the Aviva Premiership Rugby table before the end of the season. Vea is looking to take every pearl on board if it can keep Newcastle off the foot of the standings.
“It’s been a big change for me this season – change in climate and change in the style of rugby too – but I’m really enjoying my time here,” he said.
“It’s a good group of guys we have here and everyone, including the staff, have really come together for the club to get us through some of the bad times this season.
“But I’m enjoying the challenge of trying to stay up in the Premiership, and it’s been pretty good learning from someone like Kensuke too.
“He’s not the biggest of players, but he’s got a phenomenal work-rate and his knowledge of the game is definitely something that helps me.
“I do turn to him quite a lot to ask for help, especially at half-time of games I’ll ask him for a few tips. He’s been there, and done it all at the top level.
“He’s played at the top level for a very long time, and seeing Japan hold their own against South Africa in the autumn was amazing so it’s been great to turn to him for a helping hand.”
Newcastle travel to Bath Rugby on Friday evening, a side also struggling for momentum in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
And while Vea admits facing Mike Ford’s men is not as daunting a prospect as it was at the start of the season, he knows repeating their 19-14 victory from earlier this season will be no mean feat.
He said: “It’s a very strange situation at the moment where Bath are involved, given where they are in the table and that they are not going to well at the moment.
“We’ve shown that we can deliver against top sides, and I think this is a big opportunity for us to get a win up and get some points on the board. That will stand us in good stead going into the final few weeks.
“I definitely think that they are less feared now, and I think we made the most of that the first time we played them this season.
“We realised that then, and it is the same sort of thing now, but it is a case of us getting ourselves right and doing the same sort of job on them that other teams have done.”