Zach Kibirige is determined to make this a proper breakthrough season in Newcastle colours.
A hat-trick against Exeter on his 24th birthday last Sunday made him a certainty to start down at the Stoop until he had to pull out at the eleventh hour.
The fastest thing to come out of Yarm, near Middlesbrough, since James Simpson- Daniel, the latest setback is typical of Kibirige’s stop-start career since signing professional forms with the Falcons in 2013.
But Kibirige, the son of a retired Ugandan-born doctor, is confident he and fellow young flyer, Adam Radwan, can keep pushing established wing duo, Sinoti Sinoti and Vereneki Goneva, for their places.
“With guys like Sinoti and Vereneki playing really well, when you get your opportunity you want to take the chance as best you can, and that’s pretty much what me and Radders are thinking whenever we step onto the pitch – to do ourselves justice,” said Kibirige.
“The goal is to get a regular first-team spot but, while those guys are around, they are great competition and great people to learn off at the same time.”
Tom Arscott replaced Kibirige on the right wing for Newcastle’s trip to Quins last week with Radwan wearing the No.11 jersey. Kibirige is an admirer of what Radwan brings to the team.
“We see what he is capable of in training every day,” Kibirige said of Radwan, who was recently linked with a move to Rugby League outfit Leeds Rhinos. “He is lightning quick and is unbelievable at beating defenders and breaking tackles. We know that pretty much every time he gets his hands on the ball something special is going to happen. He is a massive weapon for us.”
Kibirige has already scored as many tries as he managed the whole of last season – four – and says he never lost faith in his ability even through some dark times.
“I always knew that I’d have to be patient with the quality and competition that there is in the squad. I’ve bad luck with injuries and off-field stuff and there were some frustrating times, but I’ve always had faith in my ability,” he said.
“Patience is a massive part of it, as it is for most young players, but it is good now to be fit now and hopefully giving the coaches selection headaches every week.”
Other than a bonsai tree, his treble against Chiefs was the best birthday gift that he could have wished for. “They’ll be a couple of missed chances that I probably won’t be able to get out of my head until the next time I play but that’s the sort of mentality I want,” he said.
“Props get their kicks from scrummaging, goal-kickers get theirs from putting the ball through the posts, I just love scoring tries.”
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