HIS rugby talent used to enthral audiences at Mint Bridge and now Newcastle Falcons powerhouse Mark Wilson has designs on treading the boards of the big stage.
The Kendal-born back-row forward has made 19 Aviva Premiership appearances this season as the Kingston Park club maintained their top-flight status under the guidance of Dean Richards.
With next year’s Rugby World Cup firmly on the horizon, plenty of players will be eyeing a place in England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster’s good books over the coming months.
Wilson is no different and while international recognition has so far proved elusive, the 24-year-old admits the thought of higher honours is very much on his radar.
“I’ve got to a stage now where I think I’ve really got to go and push myself,” he said.
“I’ve had three or four years where I’ve been in the first-team at Newcastle Falcons and played 25 or 26 games each season.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about the Saxons or England and that’s the next challenge for me, to work towards international recognition.
“But I can only control the controllables and keep working hard and keep my feet on the ground.
“The game time I’ve had this season has been spot on. I’m progressing and feel my game is coming on each year and that’s the main thing.
“I’ve got to keep that place in the team and then when I’m playing in front of the international coaches hopefully I can turn an eye.”
With Worcester Warriors losing 44-20 at Saracens, any lingering relegation concerns were put to bed as Newcastle Falcons picked up two bonus points during a 44-38 reverse against London Wasps.
Exeter Chiefs travel to Tyneside on Saturday in the campaign finale with Wilson and Co. safe in the knowledge they will be returning to rugby union’s top table.
Wilson clocked up his 100th outing for the North East side during an LV=Cup clash against Newport Gwent Dragons in January, and insists the season as a whole promised much more at times.
“At times it has been frustrating, it could have been totally different but it is what it is and we’ve survived and that’s the main thing,” he added.
“Aims at the start were to finish as high as we could but at the back of everyone’s mind it was to survive.
“We came out the blocks pretty quickly with three wins in six. A couple of results after that didn’t go our way and we let a few games slip.
“If we’d nailed those if could have been a different story this year.
“But the main thing is we’re safe now and can build next season and really drive on from there. We need to build the squad and take that into the next campaign.”
Wilson returned to his old stomping ground on Sunday as Kendal RUFC celebrated its future stars by holding an awards ceremony for the mini and youth sections.
And with the club’s youngsters enjoying an extremely positive debut campaign, he believes an emphasis on youth is an important foundation stone from which to build.
“I love the club because of the atmosphere around it, it’s an old school-type of club and that’s what I like,” said Wilson.
“I’ve played at Blaydon and with Newcastle Falcons and when you go around places there aren’t many of those sorts of clubs left.
“With an established youth section the club is only going to go upwards. It’s like anything, you have to start from the bottom first.
“The rewards will then hopefully come when it reflects in the first team and that’s the main target for the club, to build on what they have now and the future will be bright.”
Award winners: Kendal Hornets Little Stingers: Best Attitude: Ethan Davies; Most Improved: Tyler Booth; Coaches Award: Mason Benson; Under 7s: Player’s Player: Toby Cross; Best Attitude: Caitlin Carter-Robson; Coaches Player of the Season: Calum Tilsley; Under 8s: Best Team Player: Katherine Kay; Most Improved: Toby Dobson; Under 9s: Player of the Year: Aaron Stephens; Shooting Star: Charlie Lowther; Best Attitude and Commitment: Barney Coxon; Under 10s: Player of the Year: Tom Keast; Trainer of the Year: Toby Johnson; Kendal Hornets Clubman Award: Aaron Parker; Under 11s: Player of the Year: James O’Reilly; Most Improved Player: Sam Keech; Player’s Player: James O’Reilly; Under 12s: Player of the Year: Liam Gudgeon; Most Improved Player: Harry Bates; Player’s Player: Liam Gudgeon; Under 13s: Most Improved: Brad Hammond; Coaches Player of the Year: Jed Elshaw; Hard Yards: Matty Halhead; Under 14s: Players Player of the Year: Joe Lashley; Coaches Player of the Year: Ben Lowther; Most Improved: Ben Hall; Hard Yards: Luke Gudgeon; Top Try-Scorer: Joe Lashley and Eric Kimai; Mayor’s Award: Jack Leslie