Tom Penny

Team news: Penny and Lockwood return against Bordeaux

Friday 8 December 2017

Newcastle Falcons welcome Tom Penny and Sam Lockwood back from long-term injuries on Saturday as they host French side Bordeaux-Begles in the European Challenge Cup (kick-off 3.15pm).

Centre Penny has been out for almost a year and a half after breaking his arm in pre-season and suffering a serious ACL knee ligament injury during his comeback game, while prop Lockwood has missed more than a year of first team action following an Achilles injury.

Both players featured for Newcastle’s second-string in their 62-12 A-League victory over Wasps just under a fortnight ago, the Falcons looking to maintain their unbeaten record in this season’s Challenge Cup after defeating Dragons (32-27) and Bordeaux-Begles (20-21).

Head coach Dave Walder said: “We’ve gone for an exciting mix this week with experience in key positions alongside promising young players, and it’s good to be getting some of our long-term injured guys back.

“It’s great to see both Sam and Tom returning after so long out – especially for Tom, who broke his arm and then came back only to do his ACL in his return match. It’s exciting for us because they’ve been back in full training for a while and are both impressing the coaches, they’re ready for this moment and they offer very different things.

“Sam will bring aggression up front, he won’t take any backward steps and he will relish the collision and contact side of things. As for Tom, he hits hard for his size, he has good hands and he’s a very skilful player, so from an energy and enthusiasm aspect they’ll both bring a lot to the table.”

Coming into the game on the back of a last-minute Aviva Premiership victory at Northampton Saints, Walder said: “We were really disappointed with how things went in our last home game against Gloucester and how we didn’t react to situations which faced us on the pitch, and even at Northampton we didn’t produce a complete performance even though we found a way to win the game.

“In our last couple of outings we’ve given away soft tries and put ourselves behind the eight ball, so the focus at Northampton was just staying in the game and giving ourselves a chance. Some of our defence down there was outstanding when we were down to 14 men on our own line, and even though we won the game we know there’s a lot more to come.

“We scored a couple of tries to get us into the lead and plenty of character to fight back at the end, we played some patient rugby and stuck to the script, so it was pleasing in that sense.”

Determined not to get carried away with the result, the former Premiership and Champions Cup winner said: “You can win on the weekend and everyone comes into training happy, or lose and everyone has a chip on their shoulder, and what I’m learning as a head coach is trying to control those emotions and have a more consistent level where I don’t veer too much from one to the other.

“I’m learning from the master in the sense that Dean Richards doesn’t show much emotion either way, but this week has been good in terms of the buzz among the squad.”

Newcastle’s one-point win in Bordeaux back in October was one of the highlights of the season as they battled back against a committed home side, Walder saying: “Bordeaux away was probably the first time this season we’d had that much experience on the field during the second half, with the likes of Micky Young, Toby Flood, Maxime Mermoz, Josh Matavesi and guys like that all in the back line.

“We didn’t panic, and that was the key, because Bordeaux are a team who like to score big early on and then hang on for the victory. Even when we went 10-0 down we showed the composure to play in the right areas and frustrate the opposition, and we more than matched them physically.”

Giving little credence to the notion that French teams don’t travel well, the former England fly-half added: “Bordeaux have guys like Joe Worsley, Rory Teague and Jeremy Davidson on their coaching staff, bringing a bit more of a British mentality.

“I’m sure they’ll come over here and be pretty tough, and these days I do think it’s a bit of a myth about the French not performing away from home. You see more away wins in the Top 14 now than you used to, and it’s possibly the influence of the overseas coaches and players. I think a lot of the perception of it is down to historical times when maybe it was more the case.

“We’re just focusing on ourselves rather than worrying too much about that. We play a good brand of rugby but we also have to be smart about when we decide to play. We have to put down a marker up front and take the game to them in that respect, putting in the odd drive, but we’re also aware of the need to move their big front five around the field when we get the chance. They key is being accurate with our basics, getting our depth right and holding onto the ball.

“We can cause them problems if we do that, but conversely Bordeaux will be happy if they can make it a slower and more set-piece-based game. It will be interesting to see how we can stifle their game and impose our own tempo onto the play.”

Tickets for Saturday’s game are available by calling 0871 226 6060, clicking here or from the stadium in person.

Newcastle Falcons team to face Bordeaux-Begles (Saturday, 3.15pm, Kingston Park Stadium)

15 Simon Hammersley

14 Alex Tait

13 Tom Penny

12 Josh Matavesi

11 Adam Radwan

10 Craig Willis

9 Sam Stuart

1 Sam Lockwood

2 Ben Sowrey

3 Scott Wilson

4 Calum Green

5 Will Witty

6 Mark Wilson (captain)

7 Gary Graham

8 Ryan Burrows

Replacements

16 Jamie Blamire

17 Rob Vickers

18 Trevor Davison

19 Glen Young

20 Harrison Orr

21 Joel Hodgson

22 Charlie Wilson

23 Zach Kibirige

Bordeaux-Begles

15 Nans Ducuing

14 Geoffrey Cros

13 Pablo Uberti

12 Romain Lonca

11 Fa'asui Fuatai

10 Matthieu Jalibert

9 Yann Lesgourgues (captain)

1 Sébastien Taofifenua

2 Adrien Pélissié

3 Vadim Cobilas

4 Luke Jones

5 Cyril Cazeaux

6 Mahamadou Diaby

7 Alexandre Roumat

8 Leroy Houston

Replacements

16 Ole Avei

17 Thierry Paiva

18 Jean-Baptiste Poux

19 Pierre Gayraud

20 Cameron Woki

21 Gauthier Doubrere

22 Ben Volavola

23 Julien Rey

Referee: Ian Davies (Wales).

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