Few people would envy Director of Rugby Dean Richards’ task of transforming Newcastle Falcons into a competitive Premiership outfit, but the former Leicester and Harlequins man has been quietly going about his business as usual and at the very least has done enough to maintain the club’s Premiership status.
Looking at the club’s transfers ins and outs for the season tells a tale of a club with a lot less financial clout than many of their top tier rivals, but also one that is developing young players before losing them to other clubs. Talented hooker and England Saxon George McGuigan has left for Leicester and follows in the footsteps of the likes of Will Chudley, James Hudson, Kieran Brookes, Geoff Parling, Phil Dowson and more who all made their names at the club but then left for challenges elsewhere.
Indeed, the biggest signing for Newcastle this season will undoubtedly be Vereniki Goneva, the Fijian winger who was such a revelation for Leicester in the past few seasons. The rest of the club’s signings are from Championship clubs, England Sevens or smaller teams further afield. Kyle Cooper arrives from the Sharks, but he has only been capped at U20s level for South Africa.
On the other hand, Newcastle is losing a great number of experienced heads. Players like the USA’s Todd Clever, Rob Hawkins, Argentinian cap Gonzalo Tiesi, Samoa’s Kane Thompson, Scotland’s Scott MacLeod and Samoa’s Tuilagi brothers have all retired or been released. Moreover, Andy Goode – who was the club’s hero for much of last season – has finally hung up his boots and appears to be making a career in writing for Pundit Arena. You can’t blame him, really.
But Newcastle always have a long conveyor belt of young talent at their disposal and no doubt Richards and his coaching team will continue to eke out gifted academy players to promote to the senior team throughout the season.
Although they are short on cash, they are not in terms of team unity and pride in the jersey, which we know counts for a lot when you look at the likes of Leicester City, Wales and Iceland in the football last season.
There’s no doubting that this season will be another tough one for the men from up north and with Bristol being able to spend their cash on the likes of Soane Tonga’uiha it’s probable the Falcons will be challenging Worcester Warriors to avoid the bottom spot and the nightmare scenario of relegation.
Joshua Chisanga from Kenya Sevens
Vereniki Goneva from Leicester Tigers
Sam Lockwood from Jersey
Sam Egerton from Sevens
Harrison Orr from Ealing Trailfinders
Joel Hodgson from Yorkshire Carnegie
Ben Sowrey from Worcester Warriors
Evan Olmstead from London Scottish
David Tameilau from San Francisco Rush
Nick Civetta from RC I Medicei
Andrew Davidson from Glasgow Hawks
Kyle Cooper from Sharks
George McGuigan to Leicester Tigers
Todd Clever released
Andy Goode retired
Rob Hawkins retired
Richard Mayhew to Yorkshire Carnegie
Gonzalo Tiesi released
Joshua Furno to Zebre
Kensuke Hatakeyama to Suntory Sungoliath
Giovanbattista Venditti to Zebre
Kane Thompson retired
Eric Fry to Sacramento Express
Ruki Tipuna to Rangataua
Jamie Booth to Manawatu
Scott MacLeod retired
Alesana Tuilagi released
Anitelea Tuilagi released
Prediction: Relegation battle
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena