London Irish v Newcastle Falcons

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London Irish v Newcastle Falcons

by OxonRob on Wed Feb 08, 2006 12:08 pm

Does Newcastle Brown travel?
by OxonRob

Some are born to punditry, some achieve punditry, and some have punditry thrust upon them. I am quite definitely one of the latter, and this preview is not the easiest I have attempted.

Even stripped of Jamie Noon (England) Colin Charvis (Wales) David Wilson (England U21) Mathew Tait (England Sevens) James Hoyle (England U21 bench) and Dave Walder (England A bench) Newcastle are not likely to be the pushover that we southern softies annually imagine.

Anyone can beat anyone in the GP this year - yes, even Sale are not immune to defeat! And so it is with this fixture.

Recent History

My mind automatically goes back to the last game of last season, when we needed a GP losing bonus point to survive in the GP. We got the losing bonus point – but we were lucky to do so, largely thanks to a missed penalty that will never miss again. Last season at the Madstad we beat them thanks to that amazing last minute rolling maul from which we scored the winning try. The rest of that game was as flat as yesterday’s beer, in terms of difference between the two sides.

Earlier this season we again travelled up to the land of ‘real men’, and came away with a huge and convincing victory – by three whole points. Admittedly, Mr Maybank’s refereeing (as seen on TV) did little to grow his LI fan club, but it should be said that we fielded a strong pack that day, who by and large won up front, apart from sharing the line outs (or is that lines out?) Despite this we didn’t exactly have a runaway victory. Is it the beer?

Have I mentioned Jonny Wilkinson yet? No? That is probably because while Jonny pulled the crowds, Matt Burke was the star up there in Newcastle. We kept giving him the ball, and he kept on putting it to good use. Not a clever ploy on our part, especially when he enjoys converting from the half way line, and is the powerful and clever runner we all admire.

Will Wilkinson play? My bet is that, unless Walder suddenly becomes available because he isn’t used by the England ‘A’ team, Jonny will get on the pitch at some stage. More than that I doubt that even Squeaky knows!

Like us, Newcastle did not cover themselves in glory at the start of the season, achieving two wins from their first five GP games, while we also managed two wins from our first five GP games. Just as we have improved since then, so have they – well their results say they have. They have lost just one match in their last nine – to a rampant Wasps at Wycombe. They must be doing something right!

Comparisons are odious

Ward apart, their front row can hold few real worries for ours (despite the probable presence of England cast-offs Morris and Long) but the return of the wily and forceful Grimes at lock may well have something to do with their recent surge of form. Even without Charvis, their back row can usually be relied upon to compete around the park.

I have to admit (whisper?) that I expect us to be superior in the forwards, but for a change it would seem from recent history that this may not be enough. Beware the Newcastle backline! If Falcons manage somehow to outplay our pack I think we are going to have an extremely uncomfortable afternoon.

Some respect is called for

Only having seen Newcastle on TV this term, my impression is of a side that has sufficient ‘nous’ outside to attack from anywhere, which goes to make up for the occasional lacklustre display by their forwards. Their defence isn’t so bad, either! In short, this mob don’t know when they are beaten, and if we get cocky about our prospects I’d not be surprised if we got a bloody nose.

As night follows day, therefore, we need to avoid putting the ball down the opposition’s throat in open play, for they are well up for running it back. That man Burke…!

So, ball in hand, we need Riki and Catty to set up the runners, and then to run, in the manner we have all become used to. Not wanting to repeat myself, but to make a point - if we aimlessly hoof it upfield they are more than likely to bite us where it hurts.

Selection

In the presumed absence of Mordt with the England Sevens team, of Geraghty with England U21 and of Franze with his knee injury, I expect to see Rodd Penney rightfully restored to his 13 shirt. Outside him, Bish’s thumb, Feau’nati’s hamstring and Topsy Ojo’s England U21 call-up suggest that Sailosi Tagicakibau will get his first start at home this weekend. I sincerely hope he gives Newcastle a surprise! (I think many will be surprised by this lad. He is dynamite.) Otherwise I’d expect our backline to be business as usual.

Up front, and barring unreported injury, I’d also expect it to be business as usual in the front five. However, Olivier Magne’s selection by France and Dec Danaher’s training ground injury before the Gloucester game make the back row an interesting place. I don’t know how close Danaher is to a return, so neither do I know whether the Dawson/Danaher head to head is about to be an item again in selectorial eyes. I suspect that we’ll play Leguizamon at 8, with Murphy on the bench and either Rochey or Gussie at 6. However, were Juan Manuel to start at 6 with Murph at 8 it could be interesting!

While Newcastle are emphatically NOT all about Jonny Wilkinson, he will make a difference if he plays and plays well, and in many ways I hope he does both – and that we still win. However, we have learned to our cost that Dave Walder is a more than able substitute at 10. If Walder is ring-fenced by getting on the park for England ‘A’ I imagine that youngster Toby Flood will get on at 10 instead. He is no mug, but Jonny he isn’t.

SUMMARY

On paper, it could be a cricket score to Irish, but the game won’t be played on paper, and I expect the Geordies to fight all the way to the final whistle. The result? It should be an Irish win, but it could be far closer than we think.
Last edited by OxonRob on Wed Feb 08, 2006 1:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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by PGT on Wed Feb 08, 2006 1:03 pm

Another excellent preview with which I wholly agree. There is an awful lot of focus on Wilko, that's half his problem in my view, whereas people tend to forget the likes of Burke and Walder (usually at their cost). Another potent threat is Tait. Is he away on England duties or will he be playing on Sunday?
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by OxonRob on Wed Feb 08, 2006 1:12 pm

Others have suggested his absence, Patrick, but for the life of me I cannot find him in any England squad!
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by Mackem on Wed Feb 08, 2006 1:18 pm

Rob - "Taity" is with the Sevens Squad in Los Angeles, just celebrated his 20th birthday. There is a players diary on the RFU Home Page.
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by OxonRob on Wed Feb 08, 2006 1:26 pm

Silly me! Thanks. I'll add him to the errata list
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by Mackem on Wed Feb 08, 2006 1:51 pm

Rob - Even sillier me! Your 2nd paragraph actually states that he is with the 7's. However, will Dave Walder not be back home considering the next A match is not until 17 March? If so, surely Nick the Ball will be back for us on Sunday?
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by OxonRob on Wed Feb 08, 2006 1:56 pm

Not sure how the land lies vis a vis squad release.

You may well be right.
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by Lindsey on Wed Feb 08, 2006 2:27 pm

Hi guys, Dave Walder was back in sunny newcastle training on monday so he may well be playing this weekend.

looking forward to the game, my first away match so better be a good one!
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by PGT on Wed Feb 08, 2006 7:31 pm

An outbreak of silliness all round it seems.

Rob refers to Matthew Tait in his article, I asked whether he would be back, Mackem advises he is in Los Angeles on 7's duty and then realises Rob referred to him at the outset. Amazing!
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by Mackem on Wed Feb 08, 2006 7:53 pm

PGT - Some people have blond moments, some people have over-50's moments. Me, I'm blessed with both my friend. Now, where did I put that Saga holidays brochure?
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by Shawshank on Wed Feb 08, 2006 9:25 pm

Assuming Wilko, Flood, Noon, Charlton and Tait are all missing from The Newcs backs, then we really should be putting them away on Sunday with a degree of comfort, seeing as our forwards gave them a bit of a pasting up North.

LI by 17?
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by PGT on Wed Feb 08, 2006 10:24 pm

Mackem, pass it on when you've finished with it will you; does it use a large TYPEFACE?
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by Mackem on Wed Feb 08, 2006 11:24 pm

WHO SAID THAT? :shock:
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