|Full name||Newcastle Falcons|
|Union||Rugby Football Union|
|Location||Newcastle upon Tyne, England|
|Ground(s)||Kingston Park (Capacity: 10,200)|
|Top scorer||Jonny Wilkinson (2005)|
|Newcastle Falcons 156 - 5 Rugby Lions
|Leicester Tigers 83 - 10 Newcastle Falcons
The Newcastle Falcons (formerly Gosforth FC/Newcastle Gosforth until 1996) is an English rugby union team that has recently returned to the English Premiership as of 29 May 2013 after a season in the RFU Championship. The club was established in 1877 and played under the name of Gosforth Football Club until 1990. The name was then changed to Newcastle Gosforth and the club began to play at Kingston Park stadium in Kingston Park, Newcastle upon Tyne. At the start of the professional era the club adopted its current name of Newcastle Falcons.
The Falcons is currently the only professional rugby club in north east England, with one Premiership and four domestic cups to their name. It also boasted a number of home-grown internationals including Jonny Wilkinson, Jamie Noon, Mathew Tait, Toby Flood, Dave Wilson, Geoff Parling, Phil Dowson, Lee Dickson and Kieran Brookes.
- 1 History
- 2 Club information
- 3 Club honours
- 4 Current squad
- 5 Current coaching staff
- 6 Notable former players
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The original Gosforth Football Club was founded in 1877 by a group of Old Boys of Durham School, in whose colours of green and white hoops the club played until the mid-1990s. The name Gosforth came from one of the suburbs of Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1955, the club moved to a new ground at North Road which was to be its home until 1990. During that time and particularly in the late 1970s Gosforth enjoyed tremendous success both on and off the field winning the John Player Cup in seasons 1975/76 and 76/77.
Gosforth supplied innumerable players to all counties over the years, to the North of England sides and to the full international and British Lions teams. These include Arthur Smith, Ray McLoughlin, Malcolm Young, Roger Uttley, Peter Dixon, Duncan Madsen, Dave Robinson, Richard Breakey, Jim Pollock and Colin White.
In 1990 the club name was changed to Newcastle Gosforth and they moved to Kingston Park. Gosforth Rugby Football Club continued as an amateur side working in partnership with Northumbria University, and currently play at the training ground of the Newcastle Falcons, Druid Park.
For the 1996/7 season the new name of Newcastle Falcons and new black-and-white colours were adopted, after local businessman Sir John Hall took control and attempted to create a sporting club in Newcastle that would emulate the success of the Barcelona model. The four teams that made up that sporting club were the football team, nicknamed the Magpies, the Newcastle Eagles basketball team, the Newcastle Wasps (later Riverkings, Jokers, Vipers) ice hockey team and the Newcastle Falcons rugby union team.
Newcastle was the first fully "professional" club in the world. In 1995, Sir John Hall installed former Wasps captain Rob Andrew as his salaried Director of Rugby and saw the club earn promotion from the national Second Division to the Premiership.
The following season, Newcastle became English Premiership champions at their first attempt in 1997/98. Alongside Andrew, the Championship winning side starred cross-code All Black and Rugby League legend Inga Tuigamala, Scotland legend Doddie Weir, England star Tony Underwood, British and Irish Lions star Alan Tait and youngster Jonny Wilkinson.
During the following 1998/99 season Newcastle didn't play in Europe, as English teams did not take part, but the Falcons did go on to the Tetley's Bitter Cup final against Wasps, which was lost 29-19. In 1999 Rob Andrew retired allowing for 20-year-old international Jonny Wilkinson to assume the fly half role full-time. Andrew would remain as Director of Rugby.
Hall sold the Falcons for a 'nominal' sum in 1999 to local businessman Dave Thompson, under whom the Falcons won two Powergen Cups: in 2001 the Falcons beat Harlequins FC 30-27; and in 2004 the Falcons beat 37-33 against Sale Sharks.
In 2004 legendary Wallabies full-back Matt Burke signed for the Falcons. For the Falcons, Burke played alongside former English rival Jonny Wilkinson (his opposite kicker in the 2001 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia). In Wilkinson, Burke, England international Dave Walder and emerging future England number 10 Toby Flood the Falcons had great competition for kicking duties over the coming seasons. During the 2004/2005 season the Falcons recorded their best ever Heineken Cup performance to date by winning their pool and progressing to a quarter-final tie against Stade Français in the Parc des Princes.
In August 2006 Rob Andrew left the Falcons to take charge of the England set-up ahead of the 2007 World Cup in a wide-ranging role that encompasses all aspects of the professional representative game in England. John Fletcher succeeded Rob Andrew as director of rugby at Newcastle Falcons with immediate effect. Fletcher, a former England A centre, had been the club's academy boss and he headed up a team of Peter Walton, Steve Black and Bob Morton, with ex-Falcons prop Ian Peel taking over as acting academy manager.
The season began with high hopes as All-Black prop Carl Hayman signed for the Falcons, reportedly as the highest paid Rugby Union player in the world. Unfortunately, the season was the beginning of a downward spiral for the Falcons. On 11 March 2008, Fletcher and Walton left the club, officially by mutual consent, following Black who had left a couple of months earlier. Steve Bates took over as interim director of rugby until summer 2008 when the post was reviewed. Dave Thompson stated at that time that nine years of underachievement were the reason for the departure of John Fletcher and Peter Walton.
Having said this, Bates guided the Falcons to a record-equalling run of seven consecutive Premiership defeats by April 2008 with home games against Leicester Tigers and London Wasps plus a season-concluding away trip to Worcester Warriors yet to come. Defeat in the European Challenge Cup semi-final against Worcester Warriors on 25 April 2008 may well have sounded the death knell for Steve Bates' tenure as interim DoR. However, on Tuesday 20 May 2008 Steve Bates was confirmed as Newcastle's Director of Rugby on a full-time basis. At the end of the season, fly-half Toby Flood left for Leicester Tigers and full-back Mathew Tait signed for Sale Sharks, as the struggling Falcons failed to hold onto young English international talent. England Saxons scrum-half Lee Dickson would also depart for Northampton Saints, where he would go on to earn full international honours. Legendary Australia full back Matt Burke retired due to injury at the end of the campaign.
In November 2008 Chairman Dave Thompson put an end to speculation of a takeover of the club after rejecting three bids. He held talks with a number of different consortia and reportedly turned down one offer of a full take over as the bidding consortium wanted to relocate the club to Darlington. Furthermore, he said the speculation had led to instability in the club which was unsettling players and fans alike. On the pitch the Falcons reached another European Challenge Cup quarter-final going down to Saracens away from home and finished 10th in the Premiership. This season marked the end of an era as legendary fly-half Jonny Wilkinson left the club for RC Toulonnais. England under-20s fly-half Rory Clegg also left for Harlequins as Jimmy Gopperth was signed as replacement fly-half. The loss of Wilkinson was compounded by the departure of future British and Irish Lions star Geoff Parling who continued the outflow of talent, leaving for Leicester Tigers. Another trio who would go on to achieve England honours in Phil Dowson, Dave Wilson and Tom May also left for Northampton Saints, Bath Rugby and RC Toulonnais respectively.
The Falcons failed to replace the character and quality which had departed, with imports Gcobani Bobo and Filipo Levi flattering to deceive, Gopperth the sole bright spot. After a disappointing season the pressure mounted on Steve Bates and on 4 May 2010, the club announced that Bates' contract had been terminated and he was being replaced by first team coach Alan Tait. The decision came after Newcastle went on an unbeaten run to quash any doubts of relegation largely due to an inspirational Carl Hayman. But a crushing home European Challenge Cup Quarter Final defeat by Cardiff Blues signalled the end of the Bates era. Following the loss of England talent Flood, Tait and Wilkinson in previous seasons, the last remaining England international at the club, Jamie Noon, departed for CA Brive. The front line was also notably weakened when club captain Hayman left the Falcons once his lucrative contract expired, to join former teammate Wilkinson at RC Toulonnais.
Towards the end of the previous season Chairman Dave Thompson had to seek investment for the club due to increasing debts following the Nationalisation of Northern Rock, the club's main sponsor. After months of speculation, it was announced that local businessman Semore Kurdi had purchased a 40% stake in the club in September 2010, easing the club's financial difficulties. Scotland number 8 Allister Hogg was signed, while Scotland and Lions prop Euan Murray also arrived to plug the gap left by Hayman. On the pitch in Alan Tait's first season the Falcons reached the Anglo-Welsh Cup final, losing to Gloucester 34-7. Despite this relative success the Falcons finished their worst ever Premiership season with just 23 points (four wins), only escaping relegation thanks to the inferior points difference of Leeds Carnegie. England Saxons pair, scrum-half Micky Young and prop Kieran Brookes, would both depart for Leicester Tigers at the end of the campaign.
The huge outflow of talent from 2008 onwards, and lack of suitable reinforcements, would come to bear during this campaign. Samoa international centre Jamie Helleur was a rare quality signing. The 2011-12 season saw Newcastle Falcons relegated from the Premiership. The Falcons started the season badly but rallied midway through as Gary Gold took over. After changing the set up at Kingston Park, the club nearly escaped relegation, but London Wasps held on to secure their Premiership status by a point. Despite finishing with a higher points total than the year before (32) it was not enough to keep them up. The Falcons still had a small hope that London Welsh may be refused Premiership status, however Welsh were promoted after an appeal. Many players, including Euan Murray, subsequently left the club.
The Falcons' season in the Championship sees the much changed side coached by director of rugby Dean Richards who appointed Will Welch as club captain, while experienced international locks Scott MacLeod (rugby union) and Carlo Del Fava were signed. The Falcons won their first game of the season 37-20 against Bristol  and went on to win their second 49-32 against London Scottish. At the half way point of the season the Falcons were maintaining their unbeaten run, including a 24-13 score against a touring Tongan national side during the first international game to be held at Kingston Park since 1990. Former England Saxons wing Noah Cato signed from Northampton Saints to assist in the promotion push.
The Falcons confirmed their place in the Championship play off semi-final with a bonus point win at home to Cornish Pirates on 22 February 2013 and their position as league leaders was confirmed early the following month. At the conclusion of the season, the Falcons defeated the Bedford Blues 49-33 on aggregate in the final to win promotion back to the Premiership for the 2013-14 season.
Prior to the beginning of the Falcon's return to the Aviva Premiership, star fly-half Jimmy Gopperth departed for Leinster Rugby. To replace Gopperth, former Falcon Rory Clegg was signed by Dean Richards for the second time, with Richards having previously signed Clegg for Harlequins when Clegg was just 19. Four years later, the return of Clegg, alongside the returning Kieran Brookes from Leicester Tigers, provided evidence that talent was coming back to the Falcons. The signings of former Scotland and Lions scrum-half Mike Blair from CA Brive, Saracens flanker Andy Saull, Scotland hooker Scott Lawson from London Irish, former Scotland fly half Phil Godman and one time France prop Franck Montanella showed the desire of the club to compete upon return to the top flight. Samoa wing Sinoti Sinoti and Argentina centre Gonzalo Tiesi were later added to the squad. Despite a difficult season, which saw a number of retirements through injury, including Carlo Del Fava, the Falcons secured their place in the Aviva Premiership for 2014/2015.
The Falcons made a statement ahead of the 2014/2015 season with the signing of 2010/2011 Premiership top try scorer and three time Premiership winner Alesana Tuilagi. One of Alesana's six rugby playing brothers, Andy Tuilagi also signed for the Falcons. Another notable signing was Italy lock Joshua Furno, while Samoa lock Kane Thompson was another new addition. Rotherham Titans duo, Juan Pablo Socino and Ruki Tipuna also joined the club. The Falcons finished the season in 11th place, with a points total of 34.
Ahead of the 15/16 campaign, England international prop Kieran Brookes and England U20 lock Dominic Barrow departed for Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers respectively. Fly halves Rory Clegg and Phil Godman, wing Noah Cato, flanker Andy Saull, scrum halves Mike Blair and Warren Fury along with centre Jamie Helleur were among those released.
A host of 2015 Rugby World Cup stars were signed in Tonga flanker and captain Nili Latu, Tonga scrum half Sonatane Takulua, Italy wing Giovanbattista Venditti and Scotland prop Jon Welsh. The return of former star scrum half Micky Young was also a coup for the Falcons, alongside one time All Black cap, fly half Mike Delany and former England lock Mouritz Botha.
Newcastle Falcons play at Kingston Park which holds 10,200. Kingston Park is the second smallest stadium in the Aviva Premiership ahead of Saracens' Allianz Park but the club's average attendance currently sits at approximately 4,000. The stadium has three modern stands; the open air North standing Terrace, the enclosed South Stand Terrace - where the loudest fans traditionally stand and sing, and the all-seated West Stand. However, the Falcons also retain the original Gosforth East stand complete with green and white seating (Gosforth colours). The pitch at Kingston Park recently went under renovation, replacing the former grass surface with a 3G Synthetic pitch with the aim of reducing the matches lost to the North East weather. In June 2015, the Falcons bought Kingston Park back from Northumbria University, which was a bold statement by the club ahead of the 2015-2016 season.
For the 2012/13 season, the team are wearing a black strip with a red and white band across the chest for home games, and a white strip with a red and black band across the chest for away games. Orion Teamwear is the current strip provider although the team kit has previously been supplied by Kooga, Nike, and Cotton Traders. During the years known as Gosforth the club played in green and white hoops, colours that are still retained by the existing Gosforth Rugby Club.
Historic league positions
- Premiership (1): 1997–98
- Division Two / Championship (2): 1992–93, 2012–13
- National Cup (4): 1976, 1977, 2001, 2004
- Melrose Sevens (1): 2006
- Middlesex 7s (1): 2007
- Premiership Rugby Sevens Series (1): 2011
- Heineken Cup: Quarter-Final (2005)
- European Challenge Cup: Semi-Final (1998, 2001, 2006, 2008)
- British and Irish Cup: Final (2012–13)
- Record Win: 156 – 5 vs Rugby Lions (Courage League 1996)
- Record Loss: 10 – 83 vs Leicester Tigers (Zurich Premiership 2004-2005)
- Best League Position: 1st (Premiership, 1997–1998)
- Worst League Position: 12th (Division Two, 1989-1990)
- Most Premiership Appearances: Tom May - 193
- Top Premiership Try Scorer: Tom May - 47
- Top Premiership Points Scorer: Jonny Wilkinson - 1,489
2015-16 Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.
Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.
Current coaching staff
- Director of Rugby: Dean Richards
- Head Coach: Peter Russell
- Defence Coach: Graham Steadman
- Forwards Coach: John Wells
- Scrum Coach: Micky Ward
- Attack Coach: Dave Walder
- Head of Field Conditioning: Kevin McShane
- Strength & Conditioning Co-ordinator: Andy Smith
- Academy Coach: Mark Laycock
- Team Manager: John Stokoe
Notable former players
- History of the Club, Newcastle-Falcons.co.uk
- Kingston Park Stadium (Newcastle Falcons), RugbyStadiums.co.uk
- Brown, Steve. "Newcastle Falcons relegated from Premiership". ChronicleLive.co.ul. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
- "Stade Français 48-8 Newcastle Falcons". www.newcastle-falcons.co.uk. 3 April 2005.
- Falcons fall to narrow defeat in Japan, Guinness Premiership, 23 August 2005.
- Falcons pay tribute to Andrew, Newcastle-Falcons.co.uk, 18 August 2006
- Boss Fletcher Leaves Newcastle, BBC Sport, 11 March 2008
- Steve Bates given Newcastle Falcons job, Telegraph, 20 May 2008
- "Thompson Ends Takeover Talk". www.newcastle-falcons.co.uk. 25 November 2008.
- "Falcons Club Statement". www.newcastle-falcons.co.uk. 4 May 2010. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
- "Kurdi buys stake Newcastle Falcons". www.guardian.co.uk. 22 September 2010. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
- "Bristol 20 Falcons 37". http://www.newcastlefalcons.co.uk. 2 September 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2012.