Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Shock as Nationals Finally Realise What We All Knew

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Shock as Nationals Finally Realise What We All Knew

Article excerpt

Byline: RUGBY UNION Like us on Facebook TRY TIME Rugby talk with MARK SMITH

I AM still amazed by the level of surprise shown from those around the country whenever the North East demonstrates it is a rugby hotbed.

We all know the line about football being a religion up here, and the round ball is undeniably king.

But that is not to the exclusion of all other interests and, to the astonishment of those south of Scotch Corner, it IS actually possible to like more than one sport. Just as I was a long-time soccer season ticket holder I played and followed rugby from the age of five, and if you took a snapshot of North East rugby today you would find more than a passing interest.

Let's consider a few facts as I sit here and write this on a grey September day.

Newcastle Falcons have shown a fiveyear high on season ticket sales, spent more than half a million quid on a stateof-the-art pitch and embarked on a summer influx which has drawn some top international players to the region.

Next year's Rugby World Cup sees world champions New Zealand joined by South Africa, Scotland, Samoa and Tonga playing in Newcastle, with the region's clubs and institutions being used as training grounds for the best players on the planet.

This week alone we have games of significant local standing, with even schoolboy matches being played on the big stage.

The Falcons' Kingston Park home provides the venue for two of our biggest rugby breeding grounds when RGS Newcastle and Durham School do battle on Friday night, Darlington's arena hosting Yarm and Barnard Castle schools the evening before.

On Saturday, the National One derby between Blaydon and Tynedale sees two of our three clubs meeting in the third tier of the English club game, some of the Falcons' finest up-and-coming talent featuring for both.

Newcastle's professionals were out in their numbers on Tuesday night as 60 of the Falcons' playing staff visited a multitude of local junior clubs to put on coaching sessions. …

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