NEWCASTLE FALCONS have signed Italian second row Josh Furno from French Top 14 side Biarritz Olympique.

Furno is Dean Richards’ ninth summer signing as Falcons’ director of rugby looks to extensively remodel a squad that scrambled to Aviva Premiership survival last season.

Capped 18 times by Italy, 24-year-old Furno played in all five of his nation’s Six Nations matches this year, scoring an impressive try against Scotland.

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The 6ft 7in line-out specialist, who was born in Australia, started his career with Viadana and Aironi before moving to France to represent Narbonne and Biarritz.

“I am delighted to be joining Newcastle Falcons,” said Furno. “I am really looking forward to meeting all the boys and getting down to work.

“Having competed against the very best in the Top 14 and Pro12, I am now excited to be given the opportunity to challenge myself in the Aviva Premiership. I will be working hard to ensure that I play my part in what promises to be an exciting future for the club.

“I spoke with Carlo del Favo and Sinoti Sinoti and they only had good things to say about the Falcons and life in Newcastle. I then spoke with Dean and was thoroughly impressed with his vision for the club going forward.”

Richards added: “Josh is a fantastic signing, who is a great all-rounder when it comes to the set-piece, ball carrying and his ability in defence.”