Falcons head for Wales on Saxons' date

THE Newcastle Falcons players and management will not be able to watch the England Saxons v England A match at Kingston Park on February 1 as they will be in South Wales.

They have been ordered to play today's postponed British and Irish Cup tie against Cross Keys on that date, giving them two successive Friday matches following next week's visit of Cornish Pirates.

The Falcons, who beat Cross Keys 52-5 at home, are already through to the cup quarter-finals after five wins from five. But the return fixture will have some significance with home advantage in the last eight still to be decided.

They are currently third best of the eight pool leaders behind Bedford and Cornish Pirates and lead Bristol only on points difference.

The expected postponement of all the region's rugby today will deny the Darlington Mowden Park players the chance to say farewell to Yiewsley Drive, their home for 40 years.

It will also prevent Stockton from giving coach Craig Lee a farewell present in the shape of a home win against promotion rivals Alnwick.

Lee is leaving Cleveland Fire Brigade to take up a position in the Middle East, leaving his elder brother Paul and Martin Howe to take over coaching duties.

All three began their careers at Stockton and after Craig's spell in the top flight with West Hartlepool they were reunited at Darlington during their National Three North days.

Paul Lee, who is currently recovering from a shoulder operation, and flanker Howe were player-coaches at Middlesbrough for six years before being replaced at the end of last season.

Mowden were determined to bow out of Yiewsley Drive with a resounding win against Huddersfield to shrug off the memory of last Saturday's 18-15 defeat at Dudley Kinswinford.

It was a setback to their promotion hopes in National Two North, but chairman of rugby Mike Keeligan said: "It makes little difference. We were going to have to beat Hull Ionians home and away in any case and if we do that we can still finish in the play-off place."

Mowden will have one match at The Northern Echo Arena, against Bromsgrove on February 2, to prepare for the visit of Ionians the following week.

Preparations for the first match in the 25,000-seat arena are well advanced with bookings being taken from members for a pre-match meal in the President's Suite, formerly the Ron Greener Suite.

The indications are that all 30 hospitality boxes will be sold, while 150 will be seated in the main suite.

In a message on the club's website this week, members were told that, with Darlington Borough Council's backing, the arena will be available for concerts, park and ride and car boot sales.

The rearranged Ionians game is filling the February 9 gap in the fixture list which will now take up most of today's games.

That doesn't particularly suit Blaydon, who are scheduled to entertain Blackheath, as their front row pair Matt Hall and Robbie Kalbraier, are in the England Counties squad for the previous night's match against Irish Wolfhounds in Cork.

n There is a strong North-East contingent in the North Under 18 squad for a game against the Midlands at Rugby on January 27. Selection follows a development day in Newcastle, which culminated in a match against a Newcastle Falcons Academy XV at Druid Park, where the North were beaten 21-8.

The squad includes: Sean Brown (Mowden Park & Durham School), Dom Butler (Ripon GS & Ripon), Nick Cairns (Prudhoe Community HS & Tynedale), Jonny Coser (Barnard Castle), Ollie Hodgson (Gosforth Ac & Middlesbrough), Eldon Myers (Hartlepool VI FC & Billingham), David Nelson (Durham School), Tom Penny (RGS Newcastle & Alnwick), Aston Whitlow (Gosforth Ac & Alnwick).

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