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Newcastle embrace radical tactic to ensure Gary Graham remains ready for Scotland

By Chris Jones
(Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Newcastle boss Dean Richards has revealed the club will increase Covid-19 testing for flanker Gary Graham, who will be leaving the Scotland bubble to return for Gallagher Premiership matches during the Guinness Six Nations championship.


Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has made it clear he is unhappy with having to release players from his bubble so that they can play for Premiership clubs.

Gregor Townsend is also having to release his ten English-based players, a list headed by captain Stuart Hogg who will play for Exeter at Worcester on Saturday. 

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Johnnie Beattie guests with Ryan Wilson and Jamie Roberts on the latest RugbyPass Offload
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Johnnie Beattie guests with Ryan Wilson and Jamie Roberts on the latest RugbyPass Offload

Hogg and the other Scotland players contracted to English clubs – including Newcastle’s Graham, Gloucester’s Chris Harris, Harlequins’ Scott Steele, Cameron Redpath at Bath and Exeter’s Jonny Gray – will then reassemble with the national squad at Oriam at the start of next week leading into the opening Six Nations game with England at Twickenham on February 6.

Richards has flanker Mark Wilson in camp with England throughout the Six Nations as Premiership clubs have agreed to let head coach Eddie Jones keep a maximum of 28 players in his bio-secure environment. 

However, Richards will have Graham back for the away game with London Irish at Brentford on Sunday. He said: “Gary will be tested as part of the programme and we will also be doing lateral flow tests as well to keep on top of that and make sure that if there are any concerns we will be right on top of it.


“We will be doing the lateral flow test just for Gary who will be tested while he is with Scotland. He will be tested every day with us.” Premiership players have only recently started been tested twice weekly, but the Graham plan takes this to a new extreme.

Richards believes the Test level recognition for Graham and Wilson recognises the talent currently at Falcons who have moved up to second in the Premiership after winning promotion last season. 

However, he wants even more players in the Test mix. “We have other players who are performing exceptionally well like George McGuigan and Trevor Davison and I’m surprised they haven’t been recognised. They are playing exceptionally well along with Sean Robinson.”



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