Tuesday, 2 September 2014

2014/15 Season Preview: Newcastle

Nickname: Falcons
Founded: 1877
Years in Top Tier: 17
Last Year: 11th in Prem (22 points), Amlin Challenge Cup & Anglo Welsh Cup group stage
Europe: Challenge Cup
Director of Rugby: Dean Richards

In: Alesana Tuilagi (NTT Shining Arcs), Josh Furno (Biarritz), Uili Kolo’ofai (Colomiers), Kane Thompson (Waikato Chiefs), Juan Pablo Socino (Rotherham), Ruki Tipuna (Bristol), Calum Green (Leeds), Rob Hawkins (Leicester), Eric Fry (London Scottish), Anitelea Tuilagi (Newport)
Out: Chris Pilgrim (Leeds), Carlo Del Farva (Retirement), James Fitzpatrick (Leeds), Michael Tait (Edinburgh), Franck Montanella (Biarritz), Alex Crockett (Retirement), James Hallam (London Scottish), Joel Hodgson (Northampton), Grant Sheills (Bath), Fraser Mckenzie (Edinburgh)
Ins: 9
Outs: 10

Without a league win since 27th October Newcastle suffered a grim second half of the 2013/14 season and only Worcester’s woes saved them.

Failing to replace Jimmy Gopperth was a bad mistake from Deano and one that he seems doomed to repeat, unless a rabbit can be pulled from the Currie Cup or New Zealand Provincial Championship.  Phil Godman and Rory Clegg will once again be tasked with steering the ship; though Argentinean centre Juan Pablo Socino will probably kick the goals.

Owned by the Geordie Jordanian Semore Kurdi the Falcons have suffered from a long term lack of investment; this season they have chosen to buy a plastic pitch, for a stadium they no longer own, rather than attempt to bring in the play maker they so desperately need.  Baffling.

The big transfer news is the return to the Premiership of Alesana Tuilagi.  The destructive winger has returned from Japan fresh from only 15 games in 2 years and with historic charges of assault in Ireland hanging over him.  How he fares with the temptations and bouncers of the Bigg Market is yet to be known.

Newcastle have the makings of a good pack with Dom Barrow, Calum Green, Kieran Brookes, George McGuigan and Will Welch supported by Italian international Josh Furno, Samoan Kane Thompson, new boy Kolo’ofai and the excellent Ally Hogg.

Opposite Tuilagi will be Sinoti Sinoti, so good they named him twice, with former SuperLeague Grand Final winner Lee Smith also available.  Local Durham boy Tom Catterick could have a break out year in any position as the versatile player has featured at wing, full back and at fly half.

But without a decent fly half or creative inside centre I can’t see them unlocking too many defences and winning too many games.  Lacking a proven Premiership goal kicker may also be an issue, though Socino has shown his reliability in the Championship.

The promoted team rarely goes down, but I just can’t see Deano and John Wells getting relegated.

Prediction: 11th

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