Newcastle getting ready for Jonny’s return

Newcastle Falcons gave themselves the perfect boost ahead of their back-to-back Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 2 contests with Toulon – starting at Kingston Park on Thursday night – with their 26-25 Premiership victory over Gloucester Rugby.

It was the Falcons’ third win in their last four outings, including tournament victories over Lyon Rugby and Petrarca Rugby, and now they are preparing to meet the cosmopolitan French club who have also beaten Petrarca and Lyon and are level with the Falcons on nine points and only head the group on a better try count.

Toulon went down 33-12 at Toulouse in the Top 14 at the weekend – Jonny Wilkinson kicking all their points with four first half penalty goals – before the four times Heineken Cup champions racked up 20 unanswered second half points.

Now the former Falcons star is set to return to his roots in the north-east of England where England’s 2003 World Cup winning outside half scored 2,005 points in 180 appearances in a 12-year stint before moving to the south of France.

The Premiership club are calling on their fans to turn out in force for what they have tagged “The return of Falcon’s Golden Boy” and “Don’t miss out on Jonny’s Big Bash” and the potential head-to-head between Wilkinson and Jimmy Gopperth, who has scored 92 points in nine Amlin Challenge Cup appearances for the Falcons.

“This is a big game for us – we have done really well so far in the tournament with two from two and we want to go as far as we can in the Amlin Challenge Cup – so we will probably look to freshen things up a bit,” said head coach Alan Tait.

“Toulon are a massive French club full of superstars and, as you always want to pit yourselves against the best, that is what we will be doing on Thursday night.

“Of course Jonny will be back and so will former All Blacks prop Carl Hayman, who I enjoyed having in the squad before he moved on, and they are two of your genuine stars known all over the world..

“Jonny is remembered for what he achieved for the club and the fans will never forget that so I know they will give him a great welcome.

“I also think Jonny will look forward to being back at the ground where he spent so much of his career and playing in front of his old crowd.

“And, as we have had a dusting of snow over the weekend, it will be great to get down to the south of France the following weekend for the return fixture and, hopefully, some warmer weather.”

The win against Gloucester added up to the Falcons making it four wins and a draw in their last five matches in all competitions at Kingston Park, Tait adding: “Everyone is digging deep for one another and we ground out a vital win against Gloucester.

“It was a nervy ending as Jimmy missed the penalty which is not like him and then we had to hold on but you have to give the boys credit for the way they fought back.

“I thought the first-half set us up well especially against the wind and we scored two great tries from Jordi Pasqualin and James Fitzpatrick.

“We gave ourselves a real chance and, despite a few scary moments in the second half, we got the result we wanted.”

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