Newcastle Falcons academy gearing up for new season
Following the recent Malvern Festival and a training camp at Durham School, the Falcons travel to Loughborough on Thursday to take on Quins’ Under-17s at 12.30pm and their Under-18s at 2pm.
The league opener away to Midlands Central follows a week on Saturday, with head of academy James Ponton saying: “It’s great to see the importance that the club is placing on homegrown players.
“We’ve had Jamie Blamire involved with England over the summer, Callum Chick named as our club captain, Tom Penny as vice-captain, and then for our recent True North Origin game we had Phil Brantingham and Marcus Tiffen captaining the North and South teams respectively – all of whom have come through our system.
“A lot of our senior academy players were involved in that game and gave good accounts of themselves, and it’s great for us as an academy to be able to show that the pathway is working.
“Alex Codling as our new first-team head coach is fully on board with continuing that and improving it further, because it’s something that we as a club really pride ourselves on.”
Explaining where the current academy squad are in their preparation, Ponton added: “We’ve had the Malvern Festival which used to be under-16 and 18s, but they’ve changed it to 18s and 17s this season, which does mean we have to hold quite a few more players in that 17s and 18s category.
“That festival was a week earlier this season so we hadn’t had any training camps leading into it, but on the back of that we’ve since had a camp at Durham School which was really good.
“Our Under-16s went there on the Monday and Tuesday, with the 17s and 18s coming on Wednesday and Thursday, and it was massively beneficial. Durham School were excellent hosts, as were Barnard Castle in previous years, and it’s all coming together.
“We seem to be in the position where we get the first round of the Under-18s league as a bye, which has happened again this year, so we’ve taken the opportunity to organise a couple of friendlies against Harlequins at Under-18s and 17s levels.
“Just like we did last year both games will be held in Loughborough because it’s a similar distance for both clubs to travel, and it’s really useful for everyone.
“We open our league campaign away to Midlands Central (formerly Wasps) a week on Saturday then take a break for a few months in terms of matches while the lads play their school programmes. We pick up again in January for the bulk of the Under-18s fixtures, and it’s just good to get into it again.”
One Newcastle Falcons player who has missed the club’s preparation is prop Sam Graham, but with good reason, having been away on tour with England Under-18s in South Africa.
“Sam has come on from the bench for the two internationals against France and South Africa, and started in the midweek game against Western Province, during which he scored a try,” said Ponton.
“He’s gone well over there, he plays his rugby at Durham School and he’s a tight-head prop who really relishes the set-piece side of things.
“We’re thrilled that he has reached that level, and although he’s away for our next two games we look forward to welcoming him back later in the season.”
**FALCONS ACADEMY FIXTURES**
**Thu Aug 24:** Falcons U17 v Harlequins U17 (Loughborough, 12.30pm)
**Thu Aug 24:** Falcons U18 v Harlequins U18 (Loughborough, 2pm)
**Sat Sep 2:** Midlands Central v Falcons U18 (Warwick School, 3.30pm)
**Jan 5-7:** Falcons U18 v Leicester Tigers U18 (Kingston Park)
**Jan 12-14:** Sale Sharks U18 v Falcons U18 (venue TBC)
**Jan 19-21:** Falcons U18 v Midlands West (Kingston Park)
**Feb 2-4:** Falcons U18 v Yorkshire (Kingston Park)
**Feb 9-11:** Northampton Saints U18 v Falcons U18 (venue TBC)
**Feb 17-18:** Finals day (venue TBC)