SOME of English rugby's biggest names could be heading for The Northern Echo Arena next month and Darlington Mowden Park want to show they are ready for the big occasion.
Newcastle Falcons, Leicester Tigers, Sale Sharks and London Welsh are to compete in the Premiership Rugby 7s series at the Arena after it was announced Newcastle Falcons could no longer host the BT Sport televised event on August 2.
The Falcons’ new 3G artificial rugby pitch at Kingston Park will be ready for the new season but not in time for the sevens and Mowden Park have grasped the chance to step in to showcase their facilities.
The Northern Echo Arena is the largest dedicated club rugby venue in England. With a capacity of 27,500 it also boasts space for over 550 corporate guests, 1,500 car parking spaces and bars and catering outlets for all supporters.
It is hoped there will be a strong crowd for the 7s which sees six fast paced matches between the four teams in a round robin tournament. The team that tops the standings will receive the group stage silverware and along with the group runners-up will go forward to the Premiership 7s Series Finals at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday, August 8.
Darlington Mowden Park Arena manager Danny Brown said: “We are delighted that The Northern Echo Arena has been chosen to host the Premiership Rugby 7s Series. This is a big event for the town of Darlington and it’s great that the Premiership Rugby 7s Series has been able to remain in the North-East. We have a first class facility here and we can’t wait to showing it off to the thousands that will attend and the many more watching live on BT Sport.”
While frustrated to have had to move the competition from Kingston Park, Newcastle Falcons’ managing director Mick Hogan is happy with the outcome.
Hogan said: “The build process with our new 3G pitch has slipped slightly and over the weekend, it has become clear that its completion could not be guaranteed by August 2.
“Rather than hurry the process that could result in shortcuts on the installation, we had no hesitation in proposing to Premiership Rugby that the event be moved to Darlington.
“To have the best pitch in the Aviva Premiership for years to come remains our number one priority and by working with Mowden and using their superb facility, we do not have to take any unnecessary risks on that.
“Darlington will be a great venue for the 7s. The full entertainment package planned will still take place and we believe more of our fans in the south of the region will now be able to come along.
“The venue is just off the A1 and there will be free parking for all supporters. Furthermore the club will be offering low cost bus travel for fans with details to follow in the next 48 hours.
“All tickets that have been already bought or issued free to our season ticket holders are still valid. Those supporters that have purchased tickets but can’t now attend can claim a full refund.
“Meanwhile those fans whose tickets were issued free as part of their season ticket, who now can’t make the new date, can swap sevens tickets for additional ones to the pre-season friendly versus Rotherham on August 23.”
Tickets to the 7s cost from £10 for adults and concessions and £5 for Under-16s and can be purchased by calling 0871 2266060, online at www.newcastlefalcons.co.uk and from both Newcastle Falcons and Darlington Mowden Park Ticket Offices.