Sunday 8 December 2013 – 3.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 3 #3
It’s back to Europe this weekend and hopefully an opportunity to put recent league woes behind us and, with any luck, rack up a few tries and some confidence ahead of Exeter and Wasps in the Premiership at Christmas. Calvisano are the visitors to KP on Sunday before the return in northern Italy a week today.
Calvisano are currently joint-second in the National Championship of Excellence, alongside Petrarca on 22 points, three behind the lengthily-named Femi-Cz Vea R. Rovigo Delta, with whom they drew 28-28 at home in late October. Last weekend, Calvisano were 16-19 winners away to Cavalieri Prato, three weeks after a 47-13 home hammering of Rugby Reggio.
The European campaign so far has been interesting for Calvisano, with a 20-20 home draw with Brive followed up by a 37-15 loss in Bucharest, leaving the Italians rooted to the bottom of Pool 3 with just two points. Brive sit top with six points after two games, and Bucharest’s superior points difference puts them ahead of us with both the Falcons and Wolves having five points.
Previously a regular participant in the Heineken Cup before the addition of two Italian sides to the Celtic League, Calvisano are currently in their fourth Challenge Cup campaign. They lost all six matches in their debut season in 1999/2000, to Bristol, Bordeaux-Begles and Dax, before winning two in 2007/08 and one last season. In 2007/08 there was a 54-19 hammering of Dax at home and a 27-26 sneak against Leeds in Italy, while last season’s sole victory was by a score of 34-20 at the Peroni Stadium in January.
In seven Heineken Cup seasons, Calvisano won just two matches, both in 2002/03.
We have had many Italian teams visit KP over the years, from places like Parma, Treviso and L’Aquila, but the last one was probably the most notable – Petrarca Padova in January 2012. It was the first game after Alan Tait’s replacement as manager with Gary Gold, though Tait’s assistant Paul Moriarty took temporary charge.
Jeremy Manning captained the team and there were a couple of unlikely try-scorers in Ashley Wells and Jordi Pasqualin. Ryan Shortland crossed twice and Tom Catterick, Joel Hodgson and James Fitzpatrick also scored. The final score was 43-0. Luke Eves and Redford Pennycook both started but were approaching the end of their Newcastle careers.
Only two players who started against Harlequins keep their shirts tomorrow – Fraser McKenzie and Ryan Shortland – though Noah Cato is moved to full-back. Zach Kibirige is in the backline alongside captain Alex Crockett. Grant Shiells finally gets a start and Andy Saull plays his second Falcons game.
Falcons: 15 Noah Cato, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Alex Crockett (c), 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Harrison Collins, 7 Andy Saull, 8 Chris York.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Gary Strain, 19 Will Welch, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Alex Tait.
Calvisano team, including former Northampton and Sale man Andy Vilk: 15 Benjamin De Jager, 14 Pablo Canavosio, 13 Andrew Vilk, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Michele Visentin, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Simon Picone, 1 Andrea Lovotti 2 Luigi Ferraro, 3 Lorenzo Romano, 4 Michele Andreotti, 5 Augustin Cavalieri, 6 Nicola Belardo, 7 Mata Mbanda, 8 Braam Steyn.
I suppose there are different views one might take to team selection for this game – put out the same team from last week and say “Show that you can do better than last week”, or put out some fringe players and say “Show that you can do better than last week”. I would perhaps have played the first team tomorrow and some fringe players in Italy, letting everyone know that Premiership places were very much up for grabs. We’ll see how the rotation this week and whatever team is picked next week affects the more important Premiership games come Exeter.
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