The Aviva A League competition returns for 2015/16.
The Newcastle Falcons A Team travel to Franklin's Gardens, home of Northampton Saints, on Monday evening to mark the beginning of their Aviva A League campaign this season. Academy Manager, Mark Laycock, has commented ahead of the fixture that an influx of new talent to the academy this season will bring a fresh look to the team as they look to build on the success of last year.
Laycock said: “Last season saw a particularly strong campaign from the side. It was the first time the club made it to the playoffs and a lot of the academy guys held their hands up in the A Team and went on to represent the first team. Guys like Dan Temm, Sean Robinson and Chris Harris have all moved onto senior contracts now.
“As a result of these guys graduating we now have a great mix in the academy with guys like David Nelson, Will Witty, Tom Penny and Craig Willis who are now starting to mature coupled with the young pups fresh out of school who will get experience in the A Team alongside their dual registered club rugby at Blaydon, Mowden Park and Tynedale.
“As most people are aware the A Team follows a ‘top-down’ approach and you never get to field the same team twice in the A League because of the various competition pressures on all the players, whether it be the Premiership, National League 1 or even the BUCS competition that the local universities play in.”
“Our first team squad is much stronger than it was last season there will no doubt be some senior guys who play for the A Team hoping to work their way back into the first team match day squad. Mike Blair played for the A Team last year against Gloucester United and it was brilliant for the young guys to be on the pitch alongside a British Lion, those are the experiences that you don't get anywhere else, and ones which help bridge the gap to the Aviva Premiership.
Speaking on the emerging talent coming through the ranks, Laycock said: “You never really want to big up the young lads too much as they have still got a long way to go but in reality most of them have already had some exposure for the first team this season, either through the Kings of the North games or in the Singha Premiership 7s. Callum Chick and Brett Connon have both been involved with the England Under 20s squad and the A League will be a good platform for them to compete against the best young players across the country. We host Worcester Cavaliers at Kingston Park on the 30th November so the fans will get to see our new recruits in action then.“
Despite the potential strength of the Falcons A Team side this year, Laycock feels Northampton may prove to be hardy opposition as they too boast an impressive record. He said: “Northampton Saints are always strong at A Team level. Their academy produces a lot of players for their first team and they have a strong culture and identity within their club. It will be a big challenge going down to Franklins Gardens, but one I'm sure the boys will be up for when it comes around next week.”
Newcastle Falcons A Team Fixtures 2015/16: