Mike Blair returns to UK with Newcastle switch

Mike Blair signed for Brive last season but is returning to the UK. Picture: PA
Mike Blair signed for Brive last season but is returning to the UK. Picture: PA
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Newcastle Falcons have announced the signing of former Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair on a two-year contract.

Blair moved to Brive last summer after a decade with Edinburgh, but will leave the French club to return to Britain.

The 31-year-old, who retired from international duty in January as Scotland’s most capped scrum-half with 85 appearances to his name, will join up with the Falcons in the summer.

Dean Richards’ side look well set to make an immediate return to the Aviva Premiership following last season’s relegation; they currently lead the Championship table by 26 points with the play-offs looming.

Blair, a Lions tourist in 2009, said: “Newcastle have ambitions to challenge in the Aviva Premiership, and although there are still the play-offs to be played, they are in a good position to be promoted and to achieve this goal.

“I am really enjoying my time in France but I feel that playing with Newcastle Falcons will provide me with a rugby challenge that I have been looking for.”

Blair started 12 times for Brive and was a substitute on eight occasions, scoring one try, as the Limousin club have recovered from a mixed start to the season to launch a sustained bid for a return to the Top 14.

They moved up to third place in the ProD2 table after an 18-16 win at Colomiers on Saturday, meaning the club remains on track for a place in the promotion play-offs.

Blair, 31, turned down higher offers from elsewhere before signing a one-year contract at Brive, with an option for a further year, when he left Edinburgh last summer.

The move to Kingston Park will create an interesting contest for the scrum-half berth at Falcons as it renews Blair’s rivalry with fellow Scotland internationalist Rory Lawson. The pair were team-mates at Edinburgh before Lawson’s departure for Gloucester in 2006.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Sexton could be in line to make his return from a foot injury when Leinster meet Munster in the RaboDirect PRO12 on Saturday.

The Ireland fly-half has not played since suffering a hamstring injury in the Six Nations defeat against England, with a tendon tear in his left foot further extending his spell on the sidelines.

But Leinster say Sexton has “stepped up his rehabilitation in recent days”, and could be involved at Thomond Park.

The 27-year-old is among the favourites to wear the Lions’ No 10 jersey in Australia this summer, and head coach Warren Gatland will welcome the news Sexton is closing on a return to fitness.

Brian O’Driscoll will make his return to action for the province in Limerick, with his ban for stamping during Ireland’s defeat in Italy set to expire.