Wednesday 31 July 2013 Written by: Adam

Skills coach MacRae will be joined by academy manager Mark Laycock in the sevens coaching fold on Friday night as the Falcons take on Leicester Tigers, Sale Sharks and hosts Northampton Saints in Group B of the competition.

And with a mixture of both youth and experience taking centre stage in front of the BT Sport’s cameras, MacRae believes there is a good balance within the squad.

“We’ve got a good blend within the squad with four senior members and eight academy players given the chance to impress,” MacRae told the gathering media at Kingston Park.

“Having seen the youngsters perform during their pre-season programme, each and every one of them have earned their place in the squad.

“For a lot of them it’s their first time playing senior rugby for the Falcons in that environment and hopefully it goes well for them,” added the Borderer.

Providing a fitting curtain raiser in the build-up to the regular Aviva Premiership season, MacRae said: “The sevens tournament is a great way to prepare for the 15-aside season and the younger lads will be finding their feet, but ultimately there is a bit more space in sevens to allow the guys to go out and express themselves.

“There are a lot of transferable skills in the sevens game with all the players having to cover different areas of the field at different times in the match.

“The breakdown is a key part of the seven-aside code, and if you’re not very accurate in that department, the ball can be turned over very quickly.”

The northeasterners claimed the sevens crown back in 2011, blowing away their opposition on the way to triumphing in the finals held at the Twickenham Stoop. After relegation to the RFU Championship the following year, the Falcons were unable to defend their title.

Reflecting on his side’s sevens success, MacRae said: “The boys really enjoyed winning the competition two years ago at the Twickenham Stoop, but this year we have a new crop of players.

> “We went into the competition last time out with no expectations and
> we took it one tie at a time – yes it was nice to taste some success,
> but this year it’s a completely new tournament and there is a lot of
> quality and talent out there in the teams that we are playing.

“We’ll go down there and we won’t be looking past the first game against Northampton Saints.”

Academy chief Laycock, has seen a string of high profile players come off the Kingston Park production line in recent years.

Laycock insists this weekend’s tournament is the ideal way to expose the younger members of the squad to the rigours of the professional game.

He said: “This Friday gives the majority of our squad the opportunity to play in front of crowds and deal with the pressures of the media which hopefully they will be exposed to in years to come.

“It’s a good competition and the boys want to be playing in these big events, and four years down the line we want to be pushing towards playing in the Heineken Cup.

“I was chatting with our sevens skipper Richard Mayhew earlier today about the benefits of this tournament, and he agreed that it’s a good way to prepare for the new season as it gives the lads a good blowout.”