Newcastle Falcons unfussed by Nick Evans' fitness fight at Harlequins

Head coach Peter Russell says Newcastle are focusing on themselves, rather than worrying about Kiwi's injury status.

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images Nick Evans of Harlequins
Nick Evans of Harlequins

Newcastle Falcons head coach Peter Russell insists his side are not fretting over whether or not Kiwi talisman Nick Evans lines up for Harlequins tomorrow.

The former New Zealand All Black left the field injured last weekend as Quins scraped a one-point win over London rivals Wasps, and fitness updates over the fly-half have been thin on the ground despite him watching the conclusion of the game from the sidelines wearing a protective boot.

Russell said of his countryman: “We have just got to go down there and do our own jobs, rather than worrying about which of their players are or aren’t going to be on the team-sheet.

“If Nick fronts then he fronts, and we will defend accordingly. But if he is not there then they have young Ben Botica who is a bag of tricks, and he can turn a game with the skills he has at fly-half.

“We have suffered a couple of key injuries over the last two weeks, but it just opens the door for others to step in.”

Already without lock Dom Barrow due to a dislocated ankle, Samoan wing Sinoti Sinoti is in London today for a scan on the ankle injury which forced him from the field early into last Saturday’s 24-6 defeat to Bath.

The former Toulon man was yesterday limping around Kingston Park with the ankle protected, Rusell stating: “It is too early to say at the moment, and we will just see what the scan comes up with.”

There is better injury news at scrum-half where Mike Blair returns to the fold from a long-running concussion, although director of rugby Dean Richards seems set to resist the temptation to throw in new signings Lee Smith and Ian Nagle.

Newcastle Falcons head coach Peter Russell
Newcastle Falcons head coach Peter Russell

Tomorrow’s encounter represents Richards’ first return to the Twickenham Stoop in a coaching capacity since the 2009 Bloodgate scandal which saw him handed a three-year ban from the game, the former Quins boss not fanning the flames in the build-up after missing the scheduled pre-match press conference.

In his absence Russell talked about Newcastle’s desire to better use the elements, having last week played well into the wind but struggling when the elements were in their favour.

He said: “It is frustrating not to have made best use of the wind, and it has been a recurring theme for us.

“Everybody knows you have to hold onto the ball a lot longer when you are playing into the wind. That is something we have done very well, but when we have the wind at our backs we need to be patient and play the game in the right areas of the field.

“That patience is the biggest thing when we do have the breeze, and obviously it is something we talk about.

“It is not difficult up here in the North East to train in windy conditions, because we have them most days.

“The mindset of our decision-makers is the main thing. They have to take on board the fact we don’t ever play inside our own half. We want to get down into their third and put the pressure on them.”

Harlequins have been shorn of their England quartet due to Stuart Lancaster’s decision not to include Joe Marler, Danny Care, Mike Brown or Chris Robshaw among the 18 names being released to their clubs.

Russell said: “They have key players out due to international calls and injury, but they have a huge amount of depth and can still field quality even without those guys.

“I suppose that comes with the territory for them, losing guys at times during the club season. You always want your players to be playing at the highest level they can, and Quins are doing that with four of their guys in the England squad.

“They have no shortage of depth when it comes to playing on in their absence, and whichever team we face down there we know they have plenty of threat within it.”


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