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Team news: Penny skippers side in Galway



Friday 9 December 2022

Tom Penny captains Newcastle Falcons on Saturday as they open their EPCR Challenge Cup campaign away to Irish province, Connacht.

The 28-year-old features at centre in a side showing ten changes from the one which started at London Irish last weekend – Adam Radwan, Matias Moroni, Greg Peterson, Sebastian de Chaves and Callum Chick all retaining their places.

Conrad Cade, Jamie Blamire and Mark Tampin freshen up the front row, with Matthew Dalton and Tom Marshall added to the back row after coming on from the bench last weekend.

Sam Stuart and Tian Schoeman, another two replacements at London Irish, form the half-back pairing, with Nathan Earle and Alex Tait adding their experience to the back three.

Spanish international Josh Peters, flanker Marcus Tiffen and scrum-half Josh Barton are all primed for their Challenge Cup debuts after being named on the bench, as is centre Ewan Greenlaw, who is studying medicine at Sunderland University.

Newcastle and Connacht are meeting for the first time since the 2015-16 season, which saw the Falcons losing 25-10 in Galway before winning 29-5 a week later on Tyneside, with head coach Dave Walder looking forward to the start of this season’s European journey.

He said: “In some respects there are similarities between ourselves and Connacht from a bigger picture point of view.

“They’re perhaps not resourced to the same extent as the other Irish provinces, they’re a little bit of an outpost geographically, they have to contend with a lot of rough weather and they’re renowned for that real collective grit.

“They’re a very well-coached team with lots of talented players, and like ourselves they now have an artificial pitch. They work really hard for each other as you’d expect, but over the past five or six years they’ve added that real quality and raised themselves quite considerably from where they’d been prior to that.

“They’ve won most of their home games this season and they get energised by playing in Galway, but we’re looking forward to going over there and testing ourselves. We’re going over there with a really positive attitude, looking to play.”

Keen to improve on last weekend’s loss at London Irish following a pair of Gallagher Premiership victories against Gloucester and Exeter, Walder believes the general curve of his team’s performance is an upward one.

“Like I said straight after the game, we just felt it was a bad day at the office,” said the head coach.

“It wasn’t a true reflection of ourselves as a team, and we didn’t show the elements of our game which we’ve been doing better over the past six or seven weeks. But we addressed it on Monday morning, put it to bed and we’ve had a good week as we look to get going in Europe.

“I said from the outset we have a new coaching group, and it’s going to take us a while to get things bedded in. One of the big things I talked about was attitude, both in training and games, and generally the lads have been brilliant with that. Nobody sets out to play badly, but in the Premiership if you take your eye off the ball even for five minutes, you’re made to pay for it.

“There have been some encouraging signs, though. Mark Laycock’s attacking structure is starting to come together, Mark Wilson’s contact work has generally seen an improvement and Micky Ward and Scott MacLeod have done a great job with the forwards. Even in defeat last weekend our line-out defence against London Irish – one of the best line-outs in the league – was right up there, and we’ve seen signs of things coming to fruition.

“We’ve still got more to do, of course, and we’re a long way from where we want to get to, but the work is going in and the results are starting to be seen.”

Expecting a stern test during Saturday’s 5.30pm kick-off in Galway, he added: “Connacht are a good side, and they’ve got the ability to move the ball around as well as having that go-forward.

“They’ve got a hard nose to them, and it’s nice to test ourselves against teams from different leagues. The Gallagher Premiership is great and we love being part of it, but everyone knows everyone there, so this tournament is a great opportunity to freshen things up and be exposed to some different opposition and environments.”

Saturday’s game is being shown live on Viaplay (formerly Premier Sports) which is a subscription channel. Click here for further details on how to access Viaplay.

Newcastle Falcons team v Connacht (Saturday, 5.30pm, Galway Sportsground)

15 Alex Tait, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Tom Penny (captain), 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Sam Stuart; 1 Conrad Cade, 2 Jamie Blamire, 3 Mark Tampin, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Matthew Dalton, 7 Tom Marshall, 8 Callum Chick.

Replacements: 16 Charlie Maddison, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Josh Peters, 20 Marcus Tiffen, 21 Josh Barton, 22 Josh Thomas, 23 Ewan Greenlaw.

Not available for selection: Phil Brantingham, Sam Clark, Connor Collett, Carl Fearns, Gary Graham, Louie Johnson, Conor Kenny, Freddie Lockwood, Pete Lucock, Logovi’i Mulipola, Matias Orlando, Sean Robinson, Oliver Spencer, Philip van der Walt, George Wacokecoke, Will Welch.

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Tom Daly, 12 Cathal Forde, 11 Diarmuid Kilgallen, 10 David Hawkshaw, 9 Caolin Blade; 1 Peter Dooley, 2 Dylan Tierney-Martin, 3 Jack Aungier, 4 Josh Murphy, 5 Niall Murray, 6 Jarrad Butler (captain), 7 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 8 Paul Boyle.

Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Sam Illo, 19 Leva Fifita, 20 Oisín McCormack, 21 Colm Reilly, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Tom Farrell.

Referee: Luc Ramos (France).

Source – Newcastle Falcons Rugby


Club announcement: Leicester Tigers Coaching Team



Leicester Tigers Interim Head Coach Richard Wigglesworth and Head of Physical Performance Aled Walters will depart the club at the conclusion of the 2022/23 season. 

Wigglesworth and Walters will join England Rugby senior men’s coaching team. 

Wigglesworth joined Tigers as a player ahead of the 2020/21 season and made 43 appearances for the club, including starting in the 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership Final win, before retiring midway through the current campaign when he was appointed to the Interim Head Coach role.

Walters joined the club in the summer of 2020, during the COVID-19 suspended 2019/20 season, from the World Cup winning South African coaching team after previous roles with Munster, ACT Brumbies and Scarlets.

Speaking about Wigglesworth and Walters, Leicester Tigers Chief Executive Officer Andrea Pinchen said: “Richard and Aled have been key figures at the club in recent seasons in very different ways and, while disappointed to be saying farewell to them at season’s end, thank them for their efforts on and off the field at Leicester Tigers.”

“It has been a great privilege to have had both represent and be a part of Leicester Tigers.

“Their professionalism and leadership shone through when we were forced into changes to our coaching team halfway through a season and they took on more responsibilities, which we are grateful to both for and look forward to continuing to have as part of Leicester Tigers for the remainder of this campaign.

“In the same way that we want to see our players be as successful as possible and achieve accolades at all levels the game, we want our coaches and staff to achieve this as well. The appointment of Leicester Tigers coaches to senior international roles is not only a testament to their hard work and ability, but a great badge of honour for this club.

“We wish both of them all the best for the next chapter in their career and, as they have throughout their tenures at Tigers, know that they are fully committed to finishing their time with the club successfully.”

Leicester Tigers has identified a shortlist of replacements and is nearing the conclusion of the interview stage with candidates.

Speaking about the recruitment process, Pinchen said: “As we have stated before now, we began the process of identifying candidates for the Leicester Tigers Head Coach role at the beginning of the current campaign when we felt there was a chance Steve Borthwick would be targeted by the national side.

“That process has been ongoing for a number of months, from which we narrowed down to a shortlist and are nearing the end of the interview process with those candidates. We will be taking the time we feel necessary to get the best possible people in to lead Leicester Tigers from next season into the future.

“Leicester Tigers is not a club that is interested in having a transition period and are firmly focused on ensuring that this club has the very best coaching available to our players to deliver success on the pitch for our supporters, partners and community.”

The club will make no further comment on the process at this time.

Content & Images from – Leicester Tigers Rugby

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Cokanasiga confirms future



Bath Rugby can confirm England international Joe Cokanasiga has committed his future to the club.

The 25-year-old has been in fine form this season, scoring four tries in nine Gallagher Premiership matches to date, and joins Tom Dunn, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Cameron Redpath and Ben Spencer in extending his time at The Rec. 

“Joe has been excellent for us this season and we’re delighted he will be staying with us,” Head of Rugby Johann van Graan said.

“He has great physical attributes which he uses to great effect, and his offloading ability in contact has provided us with fantastic attacking opportunities.

“He is an exciting player for us and we have no doubt he will continue to be an integral member of our squad.”

Cokanasiga has flourished under van Graan and has had a notable influence in games due to his power and pace. 

Since arriving in the West Country, the bulldozing wing has featured over 50 times for the Blue, Black and White whilst also making a significant impact on the international stage.

Debuting in 2018 against Japan, Cokanasiga has scored 12 tries in 14 Test matches, adding to his 21 in Bath colours. 

“There are goals I still want to accomplish here,” he said. 

“I really want to mark my time at the club by winning trophies; that’s a big ambition of mine. 

“A lot of change has taken place over the past few years, but this season I’ve found consistency in my performances. I feel I’ve positively contributed to the club’s progression and I’m excited by what’s to come in the next chapter.”



Bath Rugby return to action on Saturday 18 February against London Irish before hosting Bristol Bears on Friday 24 February.

Exeter Chiefs head to The Rec on Sunday 26 March in our penultimate home outing.

Whatever takes your fancy, get your tickets!




Content & Images from – Bath Rugby

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Chiefs fullback agrees new deal



Exeter Chiefs

By Mark Stevens

Josh Hodge says he’s ‘over the moon’ to have agreed a new long-term deal with the Exeter Chiefs.

The gifted full-back has pledged his future to the Devon club and believes an exciting period lies ahead for him and everyone at Sandy Park.

Signed in the summer of 2020 from Gallagher Premiership rivals Newcastle Falcons, the 22-year-old has to date made 37 first-team appearances, scoring 39 points in all competitions.

He is seen by many, including Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter, as one of the crown jewels in Exeter’s exciting vision for the future and news that he is staying put for the foreseeable future will be welcomed by everyone connected with the Chiefs.

“To be honest, it wasn’t a hard decision to sign a new contract with this fantastic club,” said Hodge. “Personally, I’m over the moon and I’m looking forward to my future here in the sunny county of Devon.

“There has been a lot of effort, good business decisions and hard work, both in training and on the pitch, to achieve the results the club has achieved in recent years.”

Alongside Hodge, the Chiefs are investing heavily in bringing through their next crop of young talent, such as Dafydd Jenkins, Christ Tshiunza, Marcus Street, Richard Capstick, Sam Maunder, Will Becconsall and Greg Fisilau to name but a few.

“I’m looking forward to working with the team to help the club attain its rightful position towards the top of all the competitions we take part in and justify the efforts of past players and trainers,” added Hodge.

“All the building blocks have been put in place by the board, backroom staff and coaches and it’s up to the team to work tirelessly to put the cherry on the cake and deliver the results the Chiefs and our fans deserve.”

Others within the current Chiefs ranks are expected to confirm they are also extending their stays with the club in the coming days and weeks.

Content & Images from – Exeter Chiefs Rugby

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