Sunday, 25 August 2013

Season's Preview: Newcastle


Nickname: Falcons

Founded: 1877

Years in Top Tier: 16

Last Year: Champions of Championship, Finalists in British & Irish Cup

Europe: Amlin Challenge Cup

Director of Rugby: Dean Richards


In: Fraser MacKenzie (Sale), Andy Saull (Saracens), Scott Lawson (London Irish), Kieran Brookes (Leicester), Rory Clegg (Harlequins), Mike Blair (Brive), Phil Godman (London Scottish), Adam Powell (Saracens), Danny Barnes (Munster), Nahuel  Lobo (Montpellier), Dom Barrow (Leeds), Franck Montanella (London Welsh)

Out: Jimmy Gopperth (Leinster), James Hudson (Gloucester), Rory Lawson (Retiring), Mike Mayhew (London Irish), Luke Fielden (England 7s), James Hall (Bristol), Taiasina Tu’ifua (Bordeaux), Jordi Pasqualin (London Scottish), Ollie Steadman (Unknown), James Goode (Unkown),

Ins: 12

Outs: 10

Last year Newcastle won the Championship beating Bedford over two legs; their second title at the 2nd level and third promotion to the top tier.  They lost by 1 point at home to Leinster “A” in the British & Irish Cup Final, denying them the 2nd tier double.

The biggest change to the Falcons since their last appearance in the Premiership is undoubtedly the arrival of Dean Richards and John Wells.  We can be sure that Newcastle will not try to run before they can walk, and that plenty of young players will get their chance as youth was a motif of Deano’s time at both Tigers and Harlequins.

Newcastle has been busy in the transfer market making several canny acquisitions to bolster their squad.  Scots pair hooker Scott Lawson and scrum half Mike Blair are experienced campaigners with points to prove whilst Franck Montanella was a revelation at London Welsh last year.  He was due to move into semi-retirement in his native Provence but was tempted by another survival attempt. 

Young props Nahuel Lobo & Kieran Brookes supplement England U-20’s Scott Wilson, Scotland’s Grant Shiells and former Worcester player Oliver Tomascyzck in what is a top quality propping corps. 

Outgoing is former favourite Jimmy Gopperth who was the main reason Newcastle’s relegation took so long in coming.  With only former Flacons Rory Clegg and Phil Godman arriving it will be interesting to see whether youngster Joel Hodgson can step it up to Premiership level.

Newcastle will be aiming for safety by Easter and building strongly towards the top 6 by next season, but without a top class goal kicker I think they might find it a bit more of a struggle and end up fighting against relegation again.

Prediction: 11th

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