Atkinson out to set Blues pulses racing
SETTING the pulses racing is the aim for new Bedford Blues recruit Mark Atkinson, who is relishing the chance of becoming part of Bedford’s heartbeat, writes Mark Wood.
The former Esher fly-half hopes to be given the opportunity as a ball-playing inside centre next term, and he is looking forward to playing at a passionate Goldington Road.
The former England U18 and U20 international said: “The fact they manage to pack in 4,000 home fans is a massive achievement for a club in the Championship.
“I’ve only play there once and it was quite intimidating being bottom and playing the top team in the league.
“It must be nice to run out in front of 4,000 fans and it seems to be the heartbeat of the town as everyone gets behind the team.”
The 22-year-old, who was with Wasps prior to joining Esher last season and has previously been at Sale, Sedgley Park and Rosslyn Park, put in a scintillating first half display against Bedford in September, only to go off injured at the interval.
He is looking forward to playing outside his old friend Jake Sharp, after a constructive chat with director of rugby Mike Rayer sealed his move to Bedford.
He said: “On a personal level I had quite a good year with Esher.
“You get a feel for playing against teams and it was only Bedford that really stood out in my mind and the type of rugby I wanted to play.
“When Mike spoke to me it seemed a logical move.
“There were a few clubs interested. For my development as a player Mike seems to understand the way rugby’s played. They throw the ball around and it did appeal to me.
“I never went as far as talking to other clubs but there were a few interested. I’m really hoping to get the chance to play at inside centre, 12. I’ve played most of my rugby through 10 in recent years through injury to others and necessity.
“He (Rayer) expressed to me he wanted me to fit in as a ball-playing 12 and that’s what I wanted to hear from a coach.
“I would love to stay at Bedford for a long time. I played most of rugby growing up at fly-half. The idea is to start playing 12, see how it goes and to be a second option to play at 10.
“Hopefully first and foremost I will play 12 but if there are any injuries or if I need to play there.”
Twice relegated Esher were blown away by Bedford in the regular season, losing 55-6 at home in September and 41-13 at Bedford in November, and the 22-year-old is buoyed by the potential of playing with that firepower.
He continued: “Playing against them last year, it was quite bewildering.
“The amount of off-loading it was quite a struggle to play against, it wasn’t like any other team in the league.
“I really enjoyed my time at Esher but the idea of winning week in week out was something we didn’t come across last year.
“They seem to be able to produce week in week out and hopefully I can fit into that system.
“I think one of the problems of me playing fly-half is I like to run too much.
“Hopefully my running and offloading game might be able to fit in nicely.”
Atkinson’s also looking forward to getting used to the famous Goldington Road slope, saying: “You get used to it and you train to those elements.
“I think the slope plays into everyone’s minds rather than it makes any difference.”
Having been troubled by injury in the past Atkinson is now hoping for another injury-free season as Bedford look to win the Championship.
He continued: “It was nice to play a full season of rugby. Everyone has got a sob story.
“It (injury) may have held me back but I’ve still been given the opportunity to play.
“Fingers crossed I can have another injury-free season and kick on from there.
“London Welsh came from nowhere to win it this year.
“It’s everybody’s goal to win the league and say to the RFU we are the best team and deal with it from there.
“The goal has got to be to win the league.”
And Atkinson is also looking to put his kicking game to good effect when the opportunity arises.
He added: “I did quite a lot of the goal-kicking through the year and most of the out of hand kicking.
“I said to Mike I don’t hold back with it.
“It’s not the main part of my game, but I do goal-kick.
“I like to think I can also offer a second kicking option around the field which I’m quite looking forward to using.”
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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