Newcastle Falcons have been dealt a major injury blow ahead of tomorrow’s Aviva Premiership trip to Bath, lock-forward Dom Barrow dislocating his ankle.
The 20-year-old has been a revelation since arriving from Leeds in the summer, the Under-20s World Cup winner forcing his way into the side despite a host of senior internationals vying for the second-row spots.
A hamstring injury picked up in November had finally been shaken off in time for last Friday’s 29-0 thrashing of Newport Gwent Dragons, Barrow playing 50 minutes without problem in his comeback game.
But director of rugby Dean Richards confirmed he would face another lay-off after suffering a fresh blow, revealing: “We have lost Dom to a dislocated ankle in training.
“He fell awkwardly on it, and will be out for a little while. We will see how that goes, but other than that the boys are coming back to fitness.”
Argentina centre Gonzalo Tiesi and hooker Matt Thompson were among the other senior players returning to full fitness last week, the Falcons also currently active on the recruitment front in the week that hooker George McGuigan renewed his contract at the club.
The Journal understands Newcastle are in the process of trying to push through a deal for rugby league wing Lee Smith, the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats flyer who has had a previous spell in union with London Wasps.
A three-time Super League winner during his time at Leeds Rhinos and a former England international in the 13-man code, the 27-year-old can play right across the back-line and has averaged almost a try a game at international level after scoring seven times in eight tests.
Also able to kick goals, should the Falcons manage to get his proposed 18-month signing across the line Smith would be available immediately for their Premiership run-in. With a view to next season, sources in the West Midlands have also confirmed the Falcons are showing serious interest in signing Worcester Warriors No 8 Semisi Taulava.
The 30-year-old is qualified for England on residency grounds despite being born in Tonga, finding his way to Worcester via stints at Worthing, Birmingham-Solihull and Rotherham.
A specialist ball-carrier standing at 6ft 5in and weighing in excess of 20st, Taulava’s long-term opportunities at Worcester now look limited following the imminent arrival of Northampton back-rower Gerrit-Jan van Velze.
Richards has a wealth of options in that area for tomorrow’s trip to Bath, Ally Hogg having returned from international duty after taking man-of-the-match honours for Scotland A in their draw against an England Saxons side containing club-mates Kieran Brookes and Scott Wilson.
Hooker Scott Lawson will miss the 3pm kick-off as he sits on the Scotland bench against England at Murrayfield the same day, winger Zach Kibirige also absent as he lines up for England Under-20s. Ex-Newcastle tight-head Davey Wilson could make his return from injury in the Recreation Ground clash, Bath also boosted by the return of George Ford, Anthony Watson and Kyle Eastmond from the England camp and Semesa Rokoduguni, Nathan Catt and Tom Heathcote from their respective second-string national teams.
Richards said: “Bath are a really good side, and they have recruited well over the past 18 or so months.
“They have probably got one of the strongest squads in the Premiership, if not the strongest, and with that strength in depth it is no surprise that they are where they are in the table at third. The weather is not going to be great down there judging by the forecasts and what has gone before, but we will see what happens on the day. We are expecting a heavy pitch, and plenty of rain.”