Team news: Richards names side for Sunday

Friday 27 September 2019

Newcastle Falcons have named their side for Sunday’s home opener against Doncaster Knights.

The Championship Cup clash is a 3pm kick-off at Kingston Park Stadium, forming the second half of a dual-code double header as Newcastle Thunder and Doncaster RLFC get underway at 12 noon in rugby league’s Betfred League 1 promotion play-off semi-final.

Looking to kick on from last weekend’s 21-8 away win over Jersey Reds, director of rugby Dean Richards has handed a first start to centre George Wacokecoke, who scored two tries after coming on from the bench. He partners Ben Stevenson in midfield, Toby Flood moving to fly-half in an otherwise unchanged back line.

Jamie Blamire continues at hooker after catching the eye last time out, Sebastian de Chaves making his club debut in the second row following his summer move from last year’s Championship winners London Irish. Fellow lock Sean Robinson captains the side, with flanker John Hardie coming in to start on the open-side.

Director of rugby Dean Richards said: “Doncaster are a very organised team with a big physical presence in the pack and a good set of backs, so it won’t be an easy game.

“We were a little bit rusty last weekend with having had no warm-up games, and that showed over in Jersey to a degree. We came through in the end, I thought the boys did quite well and we’re hoping to see some progression on Sunday.”

Explaining his decision not to schedule any friendly matches despite the elongated pre-season, he said: “There were a lot of boys going stir crazy with such a long pre-season, and that probably manifested itself a little bit in the rustiness we showed at Jersey. The more we play the more that will be erased, and we’ll get into the swing of things.

“The Championship Cup games are good games, and it’s not as if we’re using them as pre-season. We don’t look at it that way – we just see it as throwing ourselves right in at the deep end.

“If you ask any of the players or any of the staff here, getting promoted back to the Premiership is our goal for the season. Yes, we want to win the cup because we want to win every game we play, but promotion is clearly the priority.”

Digging deep into his playing resources for Sunday’s assignment, Richards said: “We’ve got six guys at the Rugby World Cup and another load out injured, so we’re probably without about 20-odd of our squad at the moment.

“Guys on that injured or unavailable list include George McGuigan, Philip van der Walt, Michael Young, Will Welch, Jon Welsh, Tim Swiel, Johnny Williams and Gareth Owen to name just a few, and Nemani Nagusa is coming back from Fiji in the next few days after some visa issues. It would be a good side you could make from all the guys who aren’t available this weekend but that’s why you have a big squad – to cope with these situations.”

Refusing to take anything for granted this season, he added: “It is not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination, and every team that plays against us will be treating it as their cup final. You’ve got to be up for it every single week, and if you drop off by 10 or 20 per cent then they’ll take advantage of that.

“It’s going to be a challenge for players and coaches alike to keep our standards as high as we need them to be, and promotion is by no means a given. There’ll be games which will really challenge us in a lot of different ways, and we need to be ready for that.

“There are reasons why some teams have been relegated from the Premiership and not gone back up the following year, and one of them is that you can get sucked into playing a different style of rugby based on who you’re playing against. We’ve got to try and keep our standards high, keep playing the way we want to play and show no chinks whatsoever in our armour.”

Richards hopes North East sports fans will take full advantage of an appetising day of action, with both codes of rugby on display at Kingston Park Stadium.

“It’s a great day to be a rugby fan because you can watch all the Rugby World Cup games in the morning, come here for Newcastle Thunder’s rugby league semi-final at noon and then stay on for our game at 3pm,” he said.

“There’s even the Newcastle United game on the TVs in the bar afterwards if you really want to stretch out the day, and it’s great for people to take advantage of having so much sport going on.”

Tickets for the Falcons and Thunder double header start from just £10 for adults, £8 concessions and £5 juniors, and are available by clicking here.

Season ticket memberships are also available by clicking here.

Newcastle Falcons team to face Doncaster Knights (Sunday, 3pm, Kingston Park Stadium)

15 Tom Arscott

14 Adam Radwan

13 Ben Stevenson

12 George Wacokecoke

11 Sinoti Sinoti

10 Toby Flood

9 Sam Stuart

1 Adam Brocklebank

2 Jamie Blamire

3 Rodney Ah You

4 Sebastian de Chaves

5 Sean Robinson (captain)

6 Gary Graham

7 John Hardie

8 Callum Chick

Replacements

16 Kyle Cooper

17 Sam Lockwood

18 Trevor Davison

19 Toby Salmon

20 Simon Uzokwe

21 Joel Hodgson

22 Brett Connon

23 Alex Tait

Doncaster Knights

15 Lloyd Hayes

14 Curtis Wilson

13 Kyle Evans

12 Pete Lucock

11 Tyson Lewis

10 Charles Foley

9 Reiss Cullen

1 Marc Thomas

2 George Edgson

3 Andrew Foster

4 Thomas Hicks

5 Matt Smith (captain)

6 Morgan Eames

7 Sam Jones

8 Rory Pitman

Replacements

16 Will Holling

17 Robin Hislop

18 Charles Beech

19 Matt Challinor

20 Joe Sproston

21 Sam Pocklington

22 Sam Olver

23 Rouban Bircg

Referee: Andrew Jackson

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