DOMINIC Waldouck is keen to show he still has plenty to offer as a player – and he takes inspiraton from his old mate Danny Cipriani.
The 31-year-old Londoner has signed a new contract with relegated Newcastle on a player-coach basis after two years of combining rugby with his studies at Oxford University.
Waldouck takes inspiration from the way Cipriani, who he grew up alongside at Wasps, has got better with age – even if Eddie Jones fails to see it.
“He is playing brilliant rugby. It shows that, for us older lads, if you are thinking about what you are doing and look after yourself, you can perform highly up to any age.
“I don’t think Danny’s athletic ability has diminished hugely as he has got older, but he is obviously got a lot smarter and understands the game brilliantly.
“When your peers vote you as the number one player in the competition, it is tough to see how he shouldn’t be at least on the plane to Japan.”
Waldouck has played very little rugby in the pasttwo seasons, having made 23 appearances in his first spell at Kingston Park.
Now back to full fitness, he’ll be competing with new signing Gareth Owen, Tom Penny and Josh Matavesi, once the Fijian returns from the World Cup, for a spot in the Falcons’ midfield.
“I’m desperate to get playing because, unfortunately at the back end of last year, I struggled with a calf injury. I want to be a part of this group; I still feel I have got rugby in me and I don’t want to give up prematurely and have regrets so I want to compete hard and play in as many games as possible.”
“I may be reduced athletically but my game understanding has improved a lot. I have always enjoyed thinking about the game and how I can address deficiencies in my game through thinking and problem-solving and coaching is just an application of that.”
Waldouck led Oxford University to a 38-16 Varsity Match victory in December last year and says that role also helped to whet his appetite for coaching.
“The captaincy role down there is quite unique, there is a big responsibility on you. You are almost in a DoR role and do all the selection,” he reveals.
“I had a decent idea of how I wanted us to play and things like that but actual coaching wise, I wasn’t hugely hands-on, just bits here and there, it was James Wade who led all that and he was brilliant.
“Then, at the back end of last year, I was with Newcastle, helping out a little bit with defence stuff with the backs and set-piece, and this latest position has come from there.”
As a Heineken Cup and Premiership winner who has played under some of the best mentors the game has to offer, Waldouck has plenty of experience to pass on.
“Shaun Edwards is probably the coach that has had the single most impact on me because during the formative years of my rugby education were spent with him and his knowledge is unbelievable,” he says.
“Both me and Danny, who came through at the same time, owe a huge amount to Shaun for his dedication.
“I’d also add Rob Hoadley to that as well. Shaun mentored him and when Shaun moved on, he took over. He just won the MLR Coach of the Year.”
Falcons have just completed their fourth week of pre-season training as they gear up for the challenge of winning the Championship and bouncing back into the top-flight at the first attempt.
“As a team we have unbelievably high expectations of ourselves. Last year we were bitterly disappointed with the way last year turned out,” Waldouck says.
“Like any team that drops down, there are going to be huge challenges. The likes of Ealing have recruited well, and Cornish Pirates and Bedford are strong so it is going to be a tough, tough league but we have to have standards as high as possible and the aim has got to be to go unbeaten.
“Dean (Richards) is a winner and it is great to be around people like that.”
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