Falcons hooker George McGuigan backed to make the grade

Former Newcastle Falcons apprenticeship scheme manager Ed Midcalf says Irish Under-20s cap George McGuigan can blossom

Stu Forster/Getty Images Newcastle Falcons prop George McGuigan
Newcastle Falcons prop George McGuigan

The man who put George McGuigan on to Newcastle Falcons’ radar believes the Ireland Under-20s hooker can continue to advance into the professional game.

Ed Midcalf, now a coach at National Three North side Percy Park, spotted McGuigan during his time in charge of the Falcons’ Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) scheme.

The front-row forward this year became the first player to graduate through the programme into the full Falcons’ first-team.

Midcalf said: “George came into the AASE programme when I was holding the reins and he has done really well for himself.

“He is from Richmond in North Yorkshire and I first saw him in an under-14s county trial.

“I spoke to the Falcons’ academy manager Mark Laycock about him and together we got him involved in the AASE scheme.

“That meant he travelled up and lived in Newcastle doing his A-Levels and apprenticeship programme at Gosforth Academy.

“He could have gone on to do a business degree at Northumbria University, but he has chosen to go down the route of being a full-time professional rugby player.”

Proud to have played a part in bringing through the abrasive hooker, who has shone for Newcastle in both the LV and Amlin Challenge Cups, he added: “George coming through as the first AASE player to be selected for the Falcons’ senior side is all part of the big picture for the club.

“As well as the work we did with him at Gosforth, the Falcons academy coaches have put in a huge amount of time and effort, not to mention Tynedale and Darlington Mowden Park where he has also played club rugby.

“It is pleasing to see him coming through.

“He will have to work hard to stay in that environment and advance even further, but he will know all that and be prepared to put the graft in.”

Despite Midcalf moving on to pastures new the apprenticeship programme remains up and running, the former boss explaining: “It is now under the guidance of Peter Butler and is in its sixth year.

“The Falcons are behind it more heavily than ever and they are in a league competition where they play against the AASE sides affiliated to the other Premiership clubs.

“The biggest difference now is the Falcons have the best players from their own academy now part of the AASE schem, and it seems to work for all parties.”

Keen for McGuigan to keep progressing and confident he has the tools, Midcalf added: “George is a good thrower of the ball and very natural in that department.

“Even though he is not the tallest in stature he is very physical and really carries the ball hard.

“His handling skills are strong and he offers something a bit different to the other first-team hookers at the club right now with the way he offloads and attacks.

“The main reason he is getting his chance at the moment is because he is a very confident individual, and he is exceptionally competitive. He never backs down from a challenge.” With McGuigan having been part of the Ireland under-20s side which defeated world champions England in last season’s junior Six Nations, Midcalf added: “He has probably been promoted a little bit because of his Irish heritage and we got him involved with the Irish Exiles during his time with us.

“He has since gone on to play for Ireland at under-20 level and he is playing good rugby.

“George always stood out as a young player because he had a lot of physicality and he just hated losing.

“He is a natural fit with the mentality they have at the club.”

Newcastle’s next assignment comes on Sunday at Kingston Park, when Harlequins are the Premiership visitors.

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