MARK WILSON has praised the effectiveness of Newcastle Falcons’ academy as he prepares to make his 200th appearance for the club.

Wilson will reach his double century in Saturday's Aviva Premiership game against Harlequins, having first moved to Kingston Park as a teenager.

He joined Falcons’ youth set-up after impressing with Kendal at National Three level, and spent time with Blaydon during his formative years on the club’s books.

Falcons continue to enjoy a close relationship with a number of the North-East’s lower-league clubs, and Wilson is proud to have been part of one of English rugby’s most successful production lines.

“People often ask about why the Falcons are so good at bringing through their academy guys, and for me it’s about the chances you get here,” said the back-row stalwart. “A lot of clubs pay lip service to it, but when it comes down to the crunch they don’t give first-team exposure to their academy guys, whereas up here we’re not scared to do it.

“That’s what really helped me at the start of my career, knowing the coaches had the confidence to put me in there, and it means you have that bank of experience by the time you’re in your early 20s.

“Younger players are trusted here, they will get their opportunity and the ones who take it can go on to great things.”

In the last few seasons, Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards has used the European Challenge Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup as a means of blooding young talent.

The likes of Zach Kibirige, Adam Radwan and Gary Graham played prominent roles in last weekend’s win over Welsh side Dragons, with Wilson providing some welcome know-how as he skippered a much-changed side.

Richards is expected to revert to a much more experienced line-up on Saturday, with Falcons looking to return to the top half of the Premiership table as they take on a Harlequins side boasting exactly the same points total after the opening ten league games.

“We’ve always had good games against Quins,” said Wilson. “They’ve got a very good counter-attack and we need to make sure we’re on our mettle there, but we’re the home side and it’s exciting for us to have that big home game around the Christmas period.”