Newcastle Falcons could be the victims of their own success when it comes to Friday’s Premiership Rugby 7s finals at the Twickenham Stoop.
So strong was their performance in winning Saturday’s qualifying competition in Darlington, a number of coach Mark Laycock’s squad are now on the verge of being called up by the Falcons’ senior side for Thursday’s pre-season opener in Bayonne.
With that match being an evening kick-off in south-west France and the squad flying back to Tyneside late that night, the logistical and physical demands make it impossible for players to double up and do both.
Laycock will sit down with Newcastle’s director of rugby Dean Richards to see which of his squad will be pulled from the sevens finals to run out for the 15-a-side team, and already has plans in place to draft in replacements from the local club scene.
Those players trained as a virtual shadow squad last week alongside the group which won all three of its games in Darlington on Saturday, defeating Leicester Tigers, London Welsh and Sale Sharks in front of more than 7,000 supporters at the town’s arena.
Laycock said: “Quite a few of the boys who played in Darlington have put their hands up for first-team selection, and could be over in Bayonne.
“That is great and we are absolutely behind them, because what this is about is helping players progress with their rugby.
“It might mean we have to bring a few guys in for the 7s, but we have been working with a number of them already with this possibility in mind, so hopefully it should not disrupt things too much.”
Despite Tom Catterick having captained the squad, been their top try-scorer and been voted player of the tournament, Laycock was quick to highlight the collective ethic of a squad which relied largely on work-rate and physicality to make attacking in-roads. He said: “TC got plyer of the night and did really well, but the award could have gone to any number of the lads.
“I thought Dan Temm was superb, Chris Harris likewise and everyone put in a really good shift.
“Some of the last-ditch tackles in the London Welsh game summed up what we are all about and, while TC took the plaudits with the official award, he will be the first to admit there were 12 players behind that effort.”
With the round-robin event having been moved 40 miles south of Newcastle due to the Kingston Park pitch not yet being ready, Laycock insisted the support of a sizeable and vocal ‘home’ crowd was a key ingredient.
“It was a brilliant turn-out, and the guys really loved it,” he said, the Falcons having hosted their event at the home of National One side Darlington Mowden Park.
“Hopefully we put on a bit of a show for them, but it was great for the region to get that kind of support and also to reward it with a local victory.” Harris, another star of the night, certainly got a buzz from the largest ever crowd to watch rugby at the venue, saying: “The players absolutely loved it.
“The Mowden Park ground staff made the pitch even wider, so I am told, so it was really hard work out there, but the boys did the job.
“Our first game against Leicester was a bit frantic and we struggled to get into it, but we settled after that and put trust in our shape.
“We knew as a squad that we didn’t have that much gas, so we brought more physicality to the game.
“You don’t always expect that in sevens and it was a bit of a surprise to the opposition, but you have to play to your strengths.”