Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards spoke of his frustration following Friday’s 31-13 Heineken Champions Cup defeat at Edinburgh.
The Falcons were forced to start with a loose-head prop at tight-head and no number 17 following injuries to Logovi’i Mulipola, Trevor Davison and David Wilson, which all came after Tuesday’s European registration deadline.
The Falcons had a fit and available tight-head ready to play in the form of Jack Payne and made representation to tournament organisers EPCR to get him registered given the exceptional circumstances, but the request was not granted.
Richards said: “You lose three tight-head props in the space of 24 hours, you ask for dispensation to be able to deal with it and you’re not allowed, so you have to play a loose-head on the tight.
“It’s not like a left wing playing on the right wing or an inside centre playing outside centre – there’s a safety issue there but they weren’t prepared to address it. That’s what I was particularly disappointed with.
“Sam Lockwood and Sami Mavinga did well, and I’ve got to take my hat off to them. To be 13-10 up at half-time was almost a moral victory in itself, but we knew it was always going to be a difficult second half. We’re just disappointed with how the whole issue was dealt with, but I’m proud of the guys and we have another week to turn it round before we face Edinburgh a week on Sunday at our place.”
The Falcons boss added: “We created a decent amount of opportunities but didn’t nail enough of them, and we’ll look at that ahead of next Sunday’s re-match.
“We spent a large part of the game defending, but when you haven’t got a scrum you always will do. Full credit to the boys because they stuck at it, we wanted to give as many of the boys who played out in Toulon another chance, but their opportunities have been thwarted partly due to bureaucracy.
“Fair dues to Sam and Sami. They said they’d give it a go at tight-head, and if they felt there was any injury or safety issue they’d make it known and go to uncontested. To be fair they stuck at it, but it’s a ridiculous scenario when you lose three tight-heads in 24 hours and you’re not allowed to bring someone else in.
“Right up until an hour before kick-off we were saying to EPCR that we’ve got a contracted tight-head who is fit and is at the stadium, and that the alternative was playing a loose-head who a number of years ago has played a little bit of tight-head at a much lower level. Why is it allowed to happen?
“For the integrity of the game and the competition the boys said they’d give it a go, and I respect them for that, but it’s not a nice position to be in. You would have thought that common sense would have prevailed from EPCR’s point of view.
“I rang [Edinburgh coach] Richard Cockerill and explained the situation to him, he said he didn’t want the game to go to uncontested scrums but ultimately it wasn’t his decision. EPCR should have allowed us to register Jack Payne who is a specialist tight-head, and that was the simple option.
“Having said all that, Edinburgh are a really good team who are packed with Scottish internationals and it was always going to be a challenge. I thought our youngsters acquitted themselves really well on the night and we’ll see where we are for next week.
“Toby Flood was sat on the bench nursing an injury, which wasn’t ideal, and I was glad in the end that I didn’t have to bring him on. He could have done with not being out there, and we’ve come through relatively unscathed in terms of new problems.”