Newcastle Falcons’ conveyor belt of homegrown talent shows no sign of slowing down, the newly-promoted RFU Championship winners having announced the latest wave to rise through the ranks.
Players signing senior academy terms are currently undertaking a full pre-season with the first-team squad, the latest to commit their futures including former Sunderland junior goalkeeper Sean Brown.
The England under-18s winger joins Blaydon’s Ben Morris, Durham School’s David Nelson and RGS Newcastle full-back Tom Penny in signing up, while Tynedale and Northumberland full-back Chris Harris has renewed for another year.
Falcons academy manager Mark Laycock explained: “Our senior academy players train with the first-team every day and that philosophy has come from the top in Dean Richards, our director of rugby.
“He was adamant he didn’t want a ‘them-and-us’ scenario when it comes to the academy.
“He is always asking about the younger lads and everybody is really in it together.
“Dean and his senior coaches are really keen to learn more about the lads, their backgrounds and how they are getting on.
“That is the way it should be and it gives those academy lads the best opportunity to show what they can do in front of the first-team coaches.
“It also means when they are called up for senior duty they are not in the dark about what is required – they are in the team meetings every day and rubbing shoulders with the guys they will be playing with.
“Those little things like eating together as a squad and chatting to the senior guys. It gives them added value from their time at the Falcons and even though it is still very early days it has been going well so far.”
Retaining, rather than producing, has been the issue for Newcastle in recent years when it comes to the cream of their crop, although the flow to Leicester and beyond has reduced to a trickle under Richards’ stewardship.
Club captain Will Welch, full-back Tom Catterick and flying wing Zach Kibirige are among the top prospects to have nailed their colours to the Kingston Park mast and the returns of Rory Clegg and Kieran Brookes say a lot for the growing appeal of life at the Falcons.
Laycock added: “Newcastle, in fairness, have always had a pretty good track record when it comes to producing players.
“We have had more than 30 internationals coming through our academy and we are understandably keen to promote that.
“We have always been a region which produces talent and the fly-half factory is still very much in full production.
“With this being such a massive football area you do get a lot of skilful kids, which often translates into fly-halves when they start playing rugby.
“Not only that, we are even producing tight-head props and with so much farming country on our patch we do find a lot of big, strong lads who are well suited to the forward pack.”
Again sending players around the local club scene to bolster their Falcons’ training, the academy manager added: “We had players out on dual-registration last season and that will continue again for the coming year.
“There will be boys out at Blaydon, Tynedale and Darlington Mowden Park, who are the three highest-placed teams in the region beneath the Falcons. We can’t really go any lower than that level due to certain guidelines from the RFU, but getting regular game-time will be great for them and also boost the clubs they are playing for.
“The clubs we work with are generally enthusiastic about dual-registration and we encourage the lads to really buy into the culture and ethos of the teams they are going to.
“We want them to train with their clubs whenever they can and to learn from the rituals and approaches of each individual team.”