Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Simon Can Be Falcons' Big Surprise This Season - Richards

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Simon Can Be Falcons' Big Surprise This Season - Richards

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Smith @markismith50

FULL-BACK Simon Hammersley is showing every sign of being Newcastle Falcons' surprise package this season, Dean Richards singing the praises of his former England Students international. Hammersley helped Durham University to national student glory when the Palatinates stormed Twickenham to lift the BUCS Cup last year, the economics graduate already making a similar impact at professional level in his first season of fulltime rugby.

Making a solid second-half appearance against Bayonne and catching the eye in defeat to Rotherham the following week, Hammersley was again to the fore on Friday night despite the Falcons losing 21-15 to Edinburgh in Hawick.

With regular full-back Alex Tait in the process of shaking off a calf injury, the No 15 shirt seems Hammersley's to lose going into Saturday's Aviva Premiership opener at Leicester, with ex-Tigers boss Richards liking what he sees.

"Simon is an incredibly skilful player, and someone I really like," said Newcastle's director of rugby.

"We did not really have our hands on him last season because he was finishing his degree, so this is the first season he has been a full-time player."

Confident under the high ball and with a mean counter-attacking streak, Richards added: "He reads the game very well, makes the right decisions at the right times and doesn't seem to come up with mistakes."

Richards is hoping Mike Blair, Will Welch and Dom Barrow all make Saturday's kick-off after coming off injured on Friday, although one man who looks certain to miss out is Kane Thompson.

The Samoan international lock, a summer signing from Super 15 side the Chiefs, was already recovering from a PCL knee ligament injury when he needed stitches to his leg following a freak accident.

Nonetheless declaring himself impressed by what he has found during his two weeks in England, Thompson said: "English rugby seems to have picked up a lot, judging by the games I have been watching. …

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