NEWCASTLE Falcons have raided newly-crowned Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins for the signing of Chris York.
The Journal can reveal that the 22-year-old back-rower has become the eighth new arrival at the Kingston Park club, having agreed a two-year deal.
York made ten appearances for Quins this season en-route to their first-ever Premiership title, and was a regular starter during the early rounds as they topped the table with ten consecutive league wins.
The return of England’s Nick Easter from Rugby World Cup duty restricted his appearances thereafter, with a power-packed Harlequins back-row also containing England captain Chris Robshaw, Samoan hard-man Maurie Fa’asavalu, and England Saxons duo Luke Wallace and Tom Guest, among others.
York’s move to Newcastle reunites him with former boss Dean Richards, the ex-Harlequins director of rugby who takes over at Kingston Park in August.
The incoming boss knows exactly what he is getting, with the 6ft 4 forward renowned for his athleticism, physicality and handling ability.
Making 28 appearances in total for Harlequins during his three seasons of senior rugby, his rise to the senior ranks came on the back of England caps at under-16s, 18s and 20s level.
York arrives in the North East despite not yet knowing what league his new employers will be playing in next season.
Having finished bottom of the Premiership table, the Falcons are now at the mercy of the RFU appeals system with Championship winners London Welsh confirming their intent to fight the decision to deny them promotion.
York already has Championship rugby under his belt as one of many Quins players loaned to Esher during the 2010-11 season, although Newcastle’s ambitious recruitment campaign sees them in good health should they earn a top-flight reprieve.
Their forward pack has already been bolstered by the arrival of Italian international second-rows Carlo del Fava and Scotland’s Scott MacLeod, while Worcester tight-head Oliver Tomaszczyk adds ballast at tight-head prop having returned to his former club.
The forward ranks can expect further strengthening with Newcastle closing in on another target in the coming weeks, with their back-line also already seeing some key additions.
Scotland scrum-half Rory Lawson heads that particular list, with the Gloucester star having this week helped the Barbarians to a 29-28 victory over Ireland.
Former favourite Tane Tu’ipulotu has returned to the North East after a season in Japan, with the Tongan veteran agreeing a two-year deal to rekindle his long-time partnership with fly-half Jimmy Gopperth. Seasoned campaigners Alex Crockett and Andy Higgins add further experience to a back-line desperately short on attacking edge over the course of a troubled campaign.
One former Falcon on the move is Irish prop Tim Ryan, with the 27-year-old yesterday signing a two-year deal at Welsh Rabodirect Pro 12 outfit Newport-Gwent Dragons.
Having been released by Newcastle last summer after just one season at Kingston Park, Ryan has spent the past year with Italian club Cavalieri Prato, playing in home-and-away games against the Dragons in the Amlin Challenge Cup group phase.
Meanwhile, a host of North East players are preparing to fly out on international duty. Newcastle Falcons fly-half Joel Hodgson will make his England Sevens debut tomorrow in the FIRA-AER European Championship Grand Prix event in the French city of Lyon.
The 19-year-old helped his club win the JP Morgan Premiership Sevens title earlier this season and is joined in the squad by Tynedale’s Sam Shires and ex-Westoe flanker Aaron Myers.
Meanwhile, a trio of Tynedale players are en-route to Uganda and Kenya this weekend as England Counties embark on a two-week tour. David Dickinson, Richard Boyle and Harry Peck are all included for the trip, along with Northumberland wing Jack Smales, with matches against an East Africa Select XV and two against the Elgon Warriors.