Newcastle Falcons wing prospect Zach Kibirige is out for the rest of the season after breaking his leg.
Director of rugby Dean Richards confirmed the devastating news as his team prepare for their biggest game of the season – a potential relegation decider against the winless Worcester Warriors.
They will now face that test of their survival mettle without the England under-20 winger, who has gone under the knife after breaking his leg in the narrow defeat at Gloucester.
It is particularly disappointing for Richards because Kibirige was injured on a promising debut in a game where he had already exhibited the fleet feet that have earned him rave reviews. He was taken off just before half time with the leg injury which saw him spend three days in hospital.
“Zach Kibirige broke his leg, unfortunately. He’s had that operated on now – it’s disappointing obviously for a young lad with a great future,” Richards said.
“It was his first start in a Premiership match and the way the game was unfolding it would have meant plenty of opportunities for him to probably score a try or two on his debut but alas, that didn’t happen for him.
“I’ve spoken to him. He came out of hospital on Wednesday so he will be recuperating for the time being. He will be out for the rest of the season and that is a real shame because he’s only a young player.”
Richards is attempting to turn Falcons into a more potent attacking force and there were signs at the end of a glorious late effort against Gloucester that it was beginning to come to fruition. The Falcons chief has injected a healthy amount of youthful zest into his starting line-up – and pointed out that three of the club’s home grown talents were involved at Kingsholm.
“When we talk about the Academy developing players, on Saturday we had Zach, George McGuigan, Scott Wilson – all those boys that have come through,” he said.
“At 19, 20 years of age it bodes really, really well for the future of the club.”
While the future is looking brighter for the Falcons they have a more immediate priority – winning their crunch clash with Worcester. The Warriors are bottom of the league but have shown signs of life recently, and Newcastle need to extinguish any hope they have of a great escape.
“It’s no different for us in terms of preparation. There’s an understanding there that it is a massive game – more so for Worcester in a way because it is do or die for them in some respects,” Richards said.
“From our point of view you have to approach in a similar way to before: the same processes although obviously adjusting it for the opposition that we’re playing against. We need to have the understanding that it’s a really, really big game and if we win we’ll be safe, even though there is a mathematical chance for Worcester still.”
Meanwhile, the club announced yesterday that Gonzalo Tiesi and Matt Thompson have both penned new deals at Kingston Park.
Tiesi has signed on for two years while Thompson, who is now in his testimonial year, has inked a one-year extension.
“Newcastle Falcons is a club that is very much close to my heart, and I didn’t have to think twice about re-signing,” said Newcastle-born hooker Thompson.
“There is a fantastic blend of both youth and experience in the squad at the moment, and that bodes well for the future as the club looks to move to the next level.”