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Hotly tipped flanker Guy Pepper the latest England back row injured

By Chris Jones
Falcons player Guy Pepper leaves the field with an injury during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Newcastle Falcons and Exeter Chiefs at Kingston Park on November 26, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Guy Pepper, who has been identified by England head coach Steve Borthwick as a player to watch, is battling to recover from the latest injury he has suffered as one of the Premiership’s turnover specialists as Newcastle prepare to face Leicester at Welford Road.

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Seven successive league defeats is pain enough for the Falcons to endure in the Premiership and the loss of Pepper, whose jackal technique has impressed each time he has taken the pitch, will be keenly felt by Alex Codling, the Newcastle head coach. This is a very challenging first season at the helm for Codling who has marked his arrival at the club by giving young talent like Pepper, Ollie Spencer, Louie Johnson and Ben Redshaw the opportunity to gain valuable big-match experience.

However, that does come at a price and a heavy clear out in the weekend’s loss to Exeter left Pepper, who overcame a foot injury to be ready for this season,  prone on the ground clutching his hip area and now gives him a 50/50 of facing the Tigers and Wales No7 Tommy Reffell. Pepper, son of former Harlequins flanker/hooker Martin,  was one of four Falcons players who recently met Borthwick who is doing the rounds of the Premiership clubs speaking to current and potential England players.

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With Tom Curry out for the entire season due to hip surgery, Ben Earl, Ted Hill and Zach Mercer injured, Jack Willis playing in France, Courtney Lawes retired from test rugby and Lewis Ludlam heading to Toulon at the end of the season, there are opportunities for the next group of back rowers.

Codling said: “Guy took a knock to his hip and is 50/50 this week but it is a lot better than when I saw him go down (against Exeter). He was fantastic in the first half and is one of the players who is a huge talent and his heart and soul is in this club. He really has been outstanding for us and I love his resolve and desire to get back after a long-term (foot) injury.

“I raised protection of the jackaler with the authorities and there are some grey areas. There are specific things they are looking about protecting players and while that incident didn’t fall within that it did look pretty nasty at the time. It was a case of a big man going against a smaller man in a prone position and there is always a balance for the rule makers about allowing a contest while protecting the player.

“Thankfully, it is not too serious and Guy is part of the reason why we have stolen the most balls on the floor in the Premiership this season and it has been a big focus for us. We do a lot of practice around body shape and the positions to get into and when to attack the ball. It is a collective thing from a rule-making and coaching perspective and a player understanding and if you get those three things in unison we can do all we can to make the game a contest while protecting everyone involved.

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“Injuries are just part of the game you have to deal with them and we have shown resilience in bucket loads this year. The challenge (at Falcons) is an enormous one and I don’t expect people to understand how big it is. For the future of the club, I am rolling the dice and in the short term that may mean players making mistakes but in the medium and long term it is really positive. Ollie Spencer is back this week and I have enormous faith in these players because they are really talented and my job is to pick when they come into the side. They are getting chances they wouldn’t get at other clubs and we are facing a couple of World Cup winners at Leicester and that challenges you in different ways.”

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