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'People might say that we are holding Jamie back... he will start games for us'

By Chris Jones

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England hooker Jamie Blamire has been ruled out of Newcastle’s clash with London Irish in Brentford by injury which temporarily solves an on-going debate involving try scoring George McGuigan and who should start in the No2 jersey for the Falcons with the club adamant they can keep both players happy.

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Micky Ward, the Newcastle forwards coach, is taking heart from the way double champions Exeter Chiefs rotate England’s Luke Cowan-Dickie and local favourite Jack Yeandle and believes the North East outfit can also find a way of ensuring McGuigan and Blamire can showcase their obvious talents.

The issue is important as Blamire started England’s win over South Africa but then found himself on the replacements bench for the 24-24 draw with Worcester as McGugian continued in his role as starter. Like England head coach Eddie Jones, Newcastle see Blamire as a player who can make a significant impact as a second half replacement.

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However, game time will become increasingly important to Blamire with Cowan-Dickie now fit to return for Exeter and help cover in the Six Nations for the loss of Jamie George with a knee injury. Added to the equation is McGuigan’s own international ambitions with the Falcons convinced he deserves to be included in the England squad. McGuigan has scored four tries this season, the same as George and his line out work has also caught the eye.

Ward said: “I am biased but I think we have two of the best hookers in the Premiership in Jamie and George. People might say that we are holding Jamie back but we work with him every day of the week and I know he started against South Africa but George had been playing really well as the starting hooker and it is a tough one.

“If you look at when Cowan-Dickie came through with Exeter, Yeandle would start and Cowan-Dickie would come off the bench even though he was playing for England. That was best for their team. Jamie will start games for us but we feel that he is a great energy coming off the bench for 30-35 minutes.

“George is good with his set piece and so is Jamie who adds a punch when he comes off he bench. I hope we can keep both happy because we would like to keep hold of them – they are great players. There is a lot of rugby to be played and as long we understand looking after people and everyone is getting a fair crack we can keep them happy. As long we manage it and don’t just leave one guy sitting on the bench and are smart, we can (keep them happy).

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“Our lads are great and crack on and we are getting to the stage where we have good competition in training with Jamie training against George and the other guys and they are getting a good work out every week. In years gone by our training sessions haven’t been as tough as the game but now we are at the point where they are being challenged all the time.”

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