Newcastle Falcons v London Irish

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Newcastle Falcons v London Irish

by AlecW on Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:26 am

Preview of Newcastle Falcons v London Irish
Kingston Park, Friday 11th November at 19:45

An excellent win by a somewhat depleted (please note, rest of the world!) London Irish against a somewhat depleted, but still strong Bath side last Saturday, brings us to one of those nightmare Friday evening games, hundreds of miles away, away to Newcastle. You either take a day off, or you don’t go to the game. Or you watch it on Sky.

Sky are televising this match because Hinge and Brackett want to check on the form of Nick Kennedy and Bob Casey, surely one of the most competitive line-out combinations in the British Isles. Their decision to televise this match had nothing whatever to do with lingering longingly and lovingly on the person of Jonny Wilkinson so as to check his form before England embark on the Autumn internationals. Oh no. Since Wilko, bless him, has had no sort of form due to several very unlucky injuries, he is not the reason. Much.

Newcastle have had a pretty poor start to the season – until you look at their fixture list. Away games at Sale, Saints, Leicester and Gloucester and only two home games, against Bristol and Bath. Looked against that context, a win (Saints), three losing bonus points (Sale, Bristol & Gloucs) and a draw (at Welford Road!) is not too bad a return. They beat Brive & Borders convincingly in Europe. They lost to Llanelli and beat Sale (34-9!) in the PG Cup.

Newcastle have had a number of injuries and international calls and were missing Andy Long, Stuart Grimes, Phil Dowson, Andy Perry, Jamie Noon, Colin Charvis, Anthony Elliott, Geoff Parling, Hall Charlton and Mark Mayerhofler last week.

Yet any pack containing Robbie Morris, Colin Charvis (released by Wales), Luke Gross and Owen Finegan will have plenty of beef. Morris, despite his scrummaging ability, is rumoured to have a “red mist” and concentration problem. Andy Long may be back at hooker, having only just failed to make the bench last week. I would expect Irish to choose the “power” front row of Hatley, Coetzee (assuming his injury was minor) and Rautenbach, second rows Casey & Kennedy (you don’t mess with the pair that demolished a decent Bath lineout last time out), Roche, Murphy and… who? Charvis and Finegan have serious power and go-forward. Do we choose Dawson (if fit? Available?) for his tackling, ability to win the ball on the ground and speed around the park, go for Danaher, who played well against Bath, or extra power? A quandary, this one. The weather forecast is not great for Friday in the North-East, so personally I would go with Danaher.

I would expect Irish to put serious pressure on the Newcastle line-out and to edge the contest at scrum time. There will be the mother of all battles between the two back rows. We hear that the relatively unknown Geoff Parling has been achieving great things in the second row for Newcastle – but then so had Hudson been for Bath…!

The Newcastle backs look a bit tasty, there is no denying it. Even in the absence of Jamie Noon, messrs Burke, May, Walder, Tait, Wilkinson and Grindal form a backline to be feared. It has pace, elusiveness and class. Once you remember that Hall Charlton (ligament injury vs Borders) and Mark Mayerhofler were not even on the bench against Gloucester last weekend, you realise the strength that Falcons have in the backs. I would expect Irish to go with Willis, Flutey and Catt, the latter two having run the game so effectively against Bath. Staniforth (if fit) and Horak, should play at 14 and 15, leaving outside centre and left wing as issues.

I fear that Delon Armitage may be vulnerable defensively to Wilko’s kicking game and may suffer as a result. Fea’unati or Bishop (who has never in his life let us down) may be a safer bet - but what do I know? Penney or Franze (if fit) at 13? I really don’t know. I feel that Penney has played his heart out for us and has produced excellent performances, so I’d go for him.

Bench: Flav, Strudders, Collins, Gussie, Everitt, Hodge, Franze.

This will, I hope, bear some tangential relation to the team actually picked!

Newcastle Falcons are laying on a wide variety of entertainment, including fireworks, a hot tub (!!!), a tug of war and a late bar – with Irish dancing. Not to mention two pint glasses of beer.

I fear that, given the weather forecast, this game may turn on the tactical kicking of Wilkinson and Catt and the place kicking of Wilkinson and Flutey / Everitt. If this is so, I would hope the Irish 8 would produce enough quality ball to keep Newcastle pinned in their half and steal enough lineout ball for our (very large) front 5 to exploit in driving the ball. I don’t think a cold, wet, windy Friday night in the North-East will make for pretty rugby.

All will depend on the ball winning and go-forward ability of the packs, the kicking duels and the lineouts.

Newcastle have only won once at Kingston Park since February, annoyingly against Irish on April 30th, though thankfully it didn’t matter in the end! There have been 16 Premiership meetings between the two – and there have been eight wins each.

Finally, I know that we are all looking forward to Rob Andrew’s level-headed and objective comments on the action. We are convinced that as usual, he will treat both of Kipling’s imposters, triumph and disaster, just the same in his after match squeakings.

Edit: Bishop comes in for Staniforth (injured, we presume) and Armitage retains his place. Russell & Fea'unati on the bench for Flav & Franze. Otherwise, at a quick glance, the LI team is as per this Preview. Whew!

Edit Edit: - Horak now out, Flutey at 15 and Everitt at 10 :roll: They altered the team sheet between the original posting at around 10:30 and 10:55 - misprint or Horak failed a fitness test?
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Ho hum

by AlecW on Thu Nov 10, 2005 4:58 pm

According to the Offy site, the team is now as originally listed, i.e. Horak at 15, Flutey at 10 and Everitt on the bench.

Gather Mrs Horak is expecting another baby... Hope everything is OK - has she perhaps had the baby today???

Hope all is VERY well in the Horak household.

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