VERENIKI GONEVA has left Newcastle Falcons in the wake of the club’s relegation from the Gallagher Premiership.

The 35-year-old winger has been one of the most reliable try scorers in the English game since moving to Kingston Park from Leicester Tigers in 2016.

However, he was always unlikely to remain with Falcons in the wake of relegation, and will continue his career in the top-flight with Harlequins.

“Niki leaves with the thanks and best wishes of everyone at the club,” said Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards. “He has made a great contribution during his time here, and we wish him all the very best for his move down to Harlequins.”

The news of Goneva’s departure follows hot on the heels of confirmation that England international Mark Wilson will spend next season on loan at Sale Sharks.

Wilson’s future was always going to be a hot topic in the wake of relegation, with England boss Eddie Jones understandably keen to see one of his key back rowers continuing to compete in the Premiership.

Wilson is set to be part of England’s squad at this autumn’s World Cup in Japan, but his continued participation in the international set-up would have been in doubt had he dropped down to the second tier.

Newcastle did not want to say a permanent goodbye to the 29-year-old, who signed a new four-year contract last season, and the club have engineered an agreement that will see him spend next term with Sale before returning to Kingston Park in 12 months’ time, provided Falcons win promotion back to the top-flight.

“This has not been an easy decision for Mark because he is very loyal to the Falcons, but at the same time we understand he has to think about his England selection,” said Richards.

“Playing Premiership rugby gives him the best possible chance of maintaining his place in the national squad, and as disappointing as it is to lose a player of his ability for a season we fully understand Mark’s reasoning in reaching this decision.

Even in his absence we believe we have a squad capable of earning promotion back into the Premiership at the first attempt, without of course taking anything for granted, after which point we would look forward to welcoming Mark back into the fold.

“I don’t think anyone can question Mark’s loyalty after making 224 appearances for the club and the manner in which he has conducted himself throughout that time, and we wish him and Sale Sharks all the best for the coming season.”