Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Falcons Hope for Jonny's Return

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Falcons Hope for Jonny's Return

Article excerpt

Byline: By Alan Hedley

Newcastle embarking on crucial spell

The Falcons begin a run of three crucial home games this weekend which could make or break their season.

And coach Andrew Blades is hoping he will have a fully-fit squad - including World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson - for the start of that run against Northampton on Sunday.

If he passes a fitness test on Boxing Day, Wilkinson will face his World Cup team-mate Matt Dawson on Sunday with the England scrum- half possibly playing in the centre for the Saints.

Newcastle will then face in-form Harlequins at home a week later, also in the Premiership, and then it's the first leg of the second round Parker Pen Challenge Cup-tie against top French side Montferrand at Kingston Park on January 11 and Wilkinson will come up against French back row star Olivier Magne.

"We are waiting for the results of Jonnys next check-up to see when he is ready to return. We need to see how he is feeling," said Blades.

"Ideally, we will have a fully fit Jonny available for selection as soon as possible, but these three games, culminating in the clash with Montferrand, will be a fantastic test for all our squad."

Two five-point wins in the Premiership will shoot the Falcons right up the table close to the top four. That and continued presence in the Parker Pen would keep alive Newcastle's hopes of a Heineken European Cup place next season. "The Parker Pen Challenge Cup is a massive competition for our club," added Blades. "It is all about exposing the club as a whole, and our young squad in particular, to more and more important and challenging fixtures.

"The last round, against the Spanish side VRAC, was very enjoyable, but our second round matches against Montferrand will be a much harder challenge."

Former Wallaby prop Blades will also get the chance to meet up with his old Australian and ACT Brumbies team mate Pat Howard over the two legs. …

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