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Falcons vow not to harm Jamie Blamire's England chances

By Chris Jones
Jamie Blamire /PA

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Newcastle boss Dave Walder insists the club are not harming Jamie Blamire’s chances of adding to his six England caps as a hooker by using him at flanker to solve an injury crisis.

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Blamire played flanker in the Premiership opening round 40-31 loss to Harlequins and with Newcastle’s back row injury worries still a factor, he could be pressed into service in the back row again with the Falcons heading to champions Leicester. Walder, the director of rugby, has George McGuigan starting at hooker and his impressive try-scoring brought him 27 in all competitions last season and he got another two against Quins. That try-scoring power has restricted Blamire’s chances at club level despite Eddie Jones picking him for England.

Blamire’s own try-scoring exploits for England – he has grabbed six – has raised his profile and Jones is known to favour players who can adapt to different positions. Wasps Alfie Barbeary has given up hopes of making it as a test hooker and is now pulling up trees as a back row forward. However, Walder does not see Blamire having to follow that pathway to regular selection for club and country.

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He said: “It is a temporary measure and, fundamentally, Jamie is a brilliant rugby player and is the most exciting and dynamic forward we have. He has played hooker for England we would be foolish not to use him there but he has done a more than adequate job of filling a role in the back row.

“He plays like a back row from hooker and is very good over the ball. He has England aspirations at hooker and we spoke to him about moving to the back row and said if that got him on the pitch then he would do it. Once our back row boys are back we will seem him at hooker. George McGuigan is for me is one of the top two or three hookers in the league and is probably more of a hooker who likes the tight play while Jamie is so mobile and loves the fast and loose stuff.

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“We are very lucky to have those options in the front row. Having the involvement with England has seen a mindset shift from Jamie and he realises what is required to stay up there. He could be an even more outstanding hooker than he already is which is good for us. We are open and honest with both of them and George was our Player of the Year but there were times when we probably kept him on too long. We gave two international class hooker and have to make sure we use them both based on who we are playing. At one point last season Jamie had played more minutes for England than the club.

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“Hopefully, we will get a couple of back row boys back this weekend but we will have to wait to see about Carl Fearns.”

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