NEWCASTLE will press ahead with their experiment of playing scrum-half James Grindal in the number 10 shirt in their pre-season game against Doncaster at Kingston Park on Sunday.
Director of rugby John Fletcher has been thinking about back-up number 10s for Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood for a while, assuming both would be on World Cup duty, and he reckons Grindal fits the bill.
Even though Flood hasn’t made the England World Cup squad, Fletcher has decided his young star needs some time off after the dejection of missing out on a place, and hasn’t picked him for any of the three Falcons squads in action this weekend, which means Grindal gets the nod against Doncaster on Sunday.
“This has been in the pipeline most of the summer,” said Grindal. “We thought both Floody and Wilko would make the World Cup squad and Fletch reckoned he would need some cover during the World Cup as well as the international programme and Six Nations Championship.
“We realised we need some cover, although we have signed Steve Jones, and Matt Burke could also play there. It’s an opportunity in this game to have a look at using me in the number 10 shirt.
“The clearance kicking at fly-half is obviously different to box kicking at scrum-half and Burkey will take the conversions, penalty kicks and dropouts, so it’s the clearance kicks that will be one of the many challenges that I face.” There’s no thought of a permanent switch to fly-half, though. “My ambition is to be in the number nine shirt come Sale Sharks in September.” The Falcons face action on three fronts this weekend with matches tonight, tomorrow and Sunday.
The Development Team travel to Jed-Forest tonight (7.30pm) and the Sevens team takes part in the Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham tomorrow. Flanker Geoff Parling captains the Development XV which includes new signing Steve Jones at fly-half, lock Jason Oakes and tight head prop David Wilson.
Newcastle Falcons players were to the fore as England Under-18s beat their Australian A counterparts in Brisbane 17-16. Fly-half Rob Miller kicked two conversions and a penalty, just hours before he picked up his A-level results.
The Keswick schoolboy’s good news means he will now take up a place at Northumbria University while training full-time with the Falcons. Falcon Alex Gray also caught the eye and the Newcastle trio on the day was completed by Barnard Castle schoolboy Rory Clegg, with the fly-half on the bench.
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NEWCASTLE FALCONS (home, Doncaster): M Burke, T May, J Hoyle, J Shaw, J Rudd, J Grindal, H Charlton, J Golding, A Long, M Ward, A Perry, M Sorenson, B Wilson, B Woods, P Dowson (capt). Replacements: J McDonnell, M Thompson, A Buist, A N Other (TBC after tonight’s game), S Jones, M Mayerhofler.
FALCONS DEVELOPMENT XV (away, Jed-Forest): G Beasley, J Harrison, T Dillon, A Tait, B Mercer, S Jones, R Samson, R Kalbraier, R Vickers, D Wilson, J Oakes, S Walker, G Parling (capt), P Dawson, P Browne. Replacements: R Harden, O Tomazszcyk, J Clark, T Swinson, G Irvin, D Shaw, R McDermott.
FALCONS SEVENS SQUAD (Middlesex Sevens, Twickenham): T Visser, S Riddell, P Dias, L Dickson, L Fielden, A Dehaty, O Phillips (capt), R Batty, M Young, J Smales, S Visser.