Jimmy Gopperth: Title justified Newcastle Falcons loyalty

Jimmy Gopperth

Fly-half Jimmy Gopperth has said his decision to remain at Newcastle Falcons to help secure promotion back to the Premiership was justified, after the play-off final victory against Bedford.

The 29-year-old, who will join Leinster next term after four years, was part of the Falcons side relegated last term.

Gopperth told BBC Newcastle: "I didn't want to leave on a sour note after relegation, I wanted to be part of it.

"People said I had taken a backward step but it wasn't for me."

He added: "It was an opportunity to be amongst a good group of players and get ourselves back to where we belong and we've succeeded."

Falcons were runaway leaders of the Championship, finishing 24 points clear of their nearest challengers, but were made to graft to win the outright title in two-legged matches against Leeds and then Bedford.

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Promotion perfect goodbye - Gopperth

"This Championship - they make it so hard to get out of - it's so tough," he added.

"You go to places, play on atrocious pitches, changing rooms are like a box, it's a different lifestyle and to get through it is a credit to the guys.

"The way we've trained all year, the unity has been fantastic, everybody through the medical staff and guys who don't get an opportunity, it boils down to everyone working together for one achievement."

Leinster will welcome a number of new faces to the RDS Arena for next season, as head coach Joe Schmidt will make way for Leicester's head coach , and Gopperth will come in for Jonny Sexton.

The Ireland and Lions star stand-off has agreed to join Racing Metro for the forthcoming campaign, leaving the blue number 10 shirt vacant - not that former Junior All Black Gopperth is daunted.

"People asked me that question [whether there was pressure] four years ago when I filled Jonny Wilkinson's boots, it seems as though I follow these famous Jonnies around," he said.

"Sexton's a fantastic player, a player who has come of age, and not just that, I've got a fight on my hands with Ian Madigan who has been fantastic so it's a challenge I'm looking forward to.

"I'm going to one of the best clubs in Europe, to have a crack at the Heineken Cup."