Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rugby Union: Signings Make an Instant Impact

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rugby Union: Signings Make an Instant Impact

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

JOE McDonnell makes his second start for Newcastle Falcons at Bath's Recreation Ground tomorrow (12.30pm) with John Fletcher hailing the New Zealand loose head's instant impact.

Even more importantly than his qualities on the pitch - evident in his debut, last week's 26-18 victory over Sale Sharks at Edgeley Park - Fletcher feels the 33-year-old has stamped his authority off the field.

"Joe has brought everything we thought he would and backed up all the research we did," said the director of rugby. "He's a quality player with a lot of enthusiasm and he's brought leadership - that's what we were after.

"Joe's already having a big input in team meetings and forwards' meetings, line-out and scrummaging sessions. Within two days he was bossing people around. That's what our pack needs. Take out (Phil) Dowson and they are followers.

"We have a bunch of young players and others who are older but very inexperienced. In our pack we don't have any active internationals."

Samoan Loki Crichton continues at fly-half with former South Africa A captain Russell Winter on the bench' and Fletcher believes the trio have changed the whole atmosphere at Kingston Park.

"There's a lot more accents to take the mickey out of for starters," he said. "When you bring in different personalities they're always going to bring something slightly different.

"Joe McDonnell is a very outgoing bloke, which backs up what we had been told from the Wellington end, where he was very highly regarded. He's an All Black and there's all the mystique which comes with that. Loki Crichton is more of a quiet family guy. Russell has only been with us for a few days but has fitted in extremely well, and Mark Sorenson arrived on Thursday from New Zealand. When you bring people in it always gives a kick up the backside to those in contention for their places. …

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