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'We do get overlooked quite a bit, the RFU, RPA, agents, whatever'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

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Long-serving Newcastle boss Dean Richards has touched on the isolation within rugby that is felt by the Falcons and Sale, their northern neighbours, as the two teams try to keep the professional game going in that area of England. Friday night’s Gallagher Premiership meeting between the clubs in Manchester isn’t your typical derby experienced by other top-flight teams in congested areas such as London or the West Country. 

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It requires a three-hour spin down the A19 to get from Kingston Park to the AJ Bell compared to the 19-minute spin Bath will have from The Rec to Kingsholm to play Gloucester on Saturday, but that distance up north only embellishes how far removed the Sharks and the Falcons are from the hubbub of the pro game. 

For sure, the pair of clubs are an outpost compared to the clusters found elsewhere, a situation that does have its drawbacks. Richards has encountered them all during his decade in charge as the Newcastle director of rugby, but he insisted it wasn’t all doom and gloom either being so far removed by the cut and thrust of the industry elsewhere.

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“There is a good friendly fondness between the two clubs because we are the most northern sides but that doesn’t affect how we approach each other on the field,” explained Richards when asked by RugbyPass to set the scene ahead of Friday’s ‘derby’ between teams that have about 160 miles of road between them.

“We do get overlooked. These teams get overlooked quite a bit by various factions, the RFU, the RPA, agents or whatever, they don’t come up quite this far and that is just the way life is. But that’s life and we accept that and we both suffer the same sort of situations on a year by year basis but it’s not a hardship at all and we quite like it sometimes if we don’t get certain business from certain people. 

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“It has always been the case. When Dimes [Steve Diamond] was over in Sale we used to joke about it. You wouldn’t necessarily get the referees coming up or the England coaches coming up or the agents wouldn’t go north of Leicester. But it is a long way to travel if you are based down in London and you don’t want to come but it didn’t bother us, it doesn’t bother us at all. We are a bit of an outpost, as Sale are, and you take it as it is really.

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“What I will say is it’s an incredibly beautiful city and its outreach to the Northumberland coastline is absolutely stunning. It’s a very small city with everything happening. The countryside, inland in the moors is again wonderful if you want to lose yourself up there, fishing, shooting, you can do anything you like.

“So in terms of being someone that is quiet, out of the way, you can have every facet that you want within your life up here. It’s a little bit of an outpost but it’s a wonderful part of the world and what you tend to find is if you turn around to the players, they can’t speak highly enough of the area.” 

One thing that has changed in the past twelve months is that Newcastle are no longer overlooked by England boss Eddie Jones. For years, Mark Wilson was their sole representative but that has now changed with Adam Radwan, Jamie Blamire, Trevor Davison and Callum Chick all capped by the Australian. 

“It has been really refreshing having Eddie paying a lot of attention to the players so from the coaching perspective with England, they have paid a lot more attention to ourselves and to the northern teams than in previous years which has been really pleasant to see,” admitted Richards, whose Newcastle team are now in a three-way battle with Worcester and Bath to avoid finishing last in this year’s Premiership.

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“From our point of view, we don’t want to finish bottom. That is a motivation in itself to win the last three games. If we win two out of the last three games we will be delighted.” 

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