Newcastle Falcons have announced the signing of back-three player Elliott Obatoyinbo on a short-term deal.
The former Saracen will be with the Falcons for the next two months, with the 23-year-old able to play full-back or wing.
A former Harrow and Stonyhurst schoolboy, Obatoyinbo made 32 appearances during his four seasons with Saracens after coming through their academy, also playing on dual-registration for London Scottish, Ampthill and Old Albanians.
“I left Saracens after last season, I’ve been looking for a club and I’m happy that Newcastle have given me this opportunity,” said the new arrival.
“I’m only just starting today after coming up over the weekend, and I’m excited to get involved. I’m here for two months, but who knows after that. Hopefully it will be for longer.
“Saracens has been a great environment with some outstanding players and I learned a lot during my time there, but I’m excited about this new opportunity.
“I know Nathan Earle from our time together at Sarries, and we’re from similar backgrounds so we get on well. I also know Josh Barton from when I was out at London Scottish, but I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone else and hopefully making a positive contribution.”
Asked what he hopes to add to the squad and which position he prefers playing, Obatoyinbo replied: “I’ll play anywhere across the back three, but if you were to press me I’d say I probably prefer full-back. I grew up playing there mostly, but I don’t mind either way to be honest.
“My high-ball skills and back-field coverage are both aspects I would hope to bring to the team, but I’d say my X-factor would be my footwork, speed and ability to beat a man.
“I enjoy the defensive elements of it as well as what I’d hope to show in attack, and I’ll be working my hardest to take this opportunity.”
Newcastle Falcons head coach Dave Walder said: “Elliott is a talented player who gives us lots of options at a time when we have a number of injuries and a packed programme of fixtures.
“He comes highly-rated from his time at Saracens, he has a lot of ability and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can add to our group.”
Leicester Tigers head coach, Dan McKellar said: “The group, players and staff were on the go for 23 weeks straight so getting away from the game for a period was really beneficial and we’ve come back in enthused for this challenge this week.
“Ealing are a team full of experience and quality, so we’ll have to be at our best to get the result we want, on a big day for the likes of Hanro and Finn.
“It’s fitting that Hanro leads us on his 100th game. He carried a lot of the leadership burden during the World Cup and continues to be someone the boys can count on to lead with his actions.”
Scott MacLeod is returning to Newcastle Falcons as line-out coach, with the former Scotland lock on board until at least the end of the season.
The Hawick native spent 11 years with the Falcons, making 61 appearances as a player before joining the coaching team in 2016.
Having departed Kingston Park last summer MacLeod will now return to impart his expertise, combining coaching commitments with working for his family’s business in the Scottish Borders.
Newcastle Falcons’ consultant director of rugby Steve Diamond said: “Scott is a well-respected line-out specialist who can help us make some big gains in that area between now and the end of the season.
“He knows and loves the club, he’s very well regarded here and I’m looking forward to getting him back involved.
“We’ve initially said it’s until the end of the season and I know Scott has other business commitments, but if it works well for both parties over the next few months then we’ll be happy to look at extending it beyond that.”
Capped 24 times by Scotland in a playing career which also saw him starring for Border Reivers, Edinburgh, Scarlets, Kobelco Steelers and Newcastle, the set-piece specialist is relishing the prospect of reinvigorating the Falcons’ line-out during the remainder of the season.
MacLeod said: “Our line-out has consistently been in the top four of the Premiership over the past few years, so hopefully I can come in and help get us back up there.
“I’ve been watching the games from afar this season because Newcastle Falcons is still a big part of my life, even though I’ve not been personally involved since the summer. I just want to come in and make a positive difference, get us back to where we should be and help the boys.”
Having spent more than a decade at Kingston Park as a player and coach, MacLeod insisted the opportunity to return was just too good to pass up.
“I’ve missed the place a lot,” said the 44-year-old.
“I’m now working for my family’s business, MacLeod Glass, up in Hawick, but I’m sure any sportsperson will tell you they miss being in and around that team environment. It’s certainly very different going from a Premiership rugby club to working in a factory every day, and it’s been a shock to the system.
“I’ll now get to combine both, and I’ve missed being involved with the professional game. I’ve been coaching my son’s S2 side to get my rugby fix, but I’m buzzing to be back with the Falcons. It’s a really special club for me.”
Setting out with one clear aim, the Scot said: “I just want us to get our identity back.
“I’ll come in, assess our strengths and our weaknesses and come up with a plan accordingly. I know some of the players really well and I don’t know others at all, but luckily with us having this big break before our next game it’s absolutely ideal timing for getting things in place.
“One thing you have to bear in mind with Newcastle is how bad the weather is, in terms of how much you can push it in the line-out, but I just want to get the confidence back into the boys.
“It’s about simple things being done well on a consistent basis, and I’m starting this week to help put it in motion.
“I’ve got a few weeks to get to know the guys I’ve not worked with before, see how it all ties in with the lads I already know and then knit it all together into a game plan which works best for the team.
“As I say, I just want us to have that Newcastle Falcons identity again when it comes to the line-out, and I’m really positive about things. We’ll see how it works between now and the end of the season, and if everyone’s happy then we can see where it goes.”
Newcastle Falcons’ next home game is against Leicester Tigers on Good Friday (March 29), with tickets on sale for the 7.45pm kick-off by clicking here.