England 7s international Cameron Cowell will captain Newcastle Falcons in this week’s Singha Premiership Rugby 7s at Northampton’s Franklin’s Gardens.
Friday’s group phase sees the Falcons opening the tournament against reigning champions Wasps (6pm) before facing Leicester Tigers (8.56pm), with the top two in the group going through to the Cup quarter-finals during Saturday’s knock-out phase.
The Singha 7s will be shown live on BT Sport, Newcastle having selected a squad of predominantly full-time, contracted Falcons players.
Summer signing Gary Graham makes his first Falcons appearance since joining from Jersey, while Max Davies is included after featuring for England during the Under-20s World Cup. Fellow forward Simon Uzokwe makes his first senior appearance for the Falcons in a pack which also includes Glen Young and Harrison Orr.
Pace out wide comes via Adam Radwan, who starred in last season’s tournament, with England Under-18s centre Charlie Wilson and senior academy centre Ben Stevenson also lining up in the backs. Guest players are Northumbria University pair George Wacokecoke and Will Muir, Newcastle going for the tournament they last won back in 2011.
Academy manager and first team skills coach Mark Laycock will once again take charge of the squad, aided by fellow Hartlepool native and former England Sevens international Michael Young.
Laycock said: “I’m really excited about the Singha 7s because we have a good blend of youth and experience. We have some pace, some play-makers and some guys who will just graft, so we’re shaping up pretty well.
“Cameron Cowell will captain the side, and his experience as an international sevens player has been invaluable during our preparation. We have had a couple of sessions to get ourselves ready and we feel like we’re in a good place.”
Switching to a two-day national format rather than the previous regional qualifiers, Laycock said: “The new set-up of the competition changes things slightly, but not radically.
“We’ll still take one game at a time but the major change will be the overnight recovery to play again the next day, rather than recovering to train. Our lads aren’t used to that, but people like Cameron have been really useful because his England 7s experience has helped to educate a lot of the lads about what is required. They’re all keen as mustard to learn and play well as a team, and that’s all that I as a coach can ask for.”
Hailing the input of Falcons first team scrum-half Michael Young ahead of the tournament, Laycock said: “He is an experienced England 7s international who did a bit of coaching with Northumbria University’s 7s squad last year.
“He really enjoyed that, he has been out injured for a little while and helping with our coaching has been good in terms of making sure he is mentally ready for the start of our own season. It is good to see him taking up a leadership role and showing that responsibility, and it will be great for his development to have this under his belt.”
For all details of the Singha 7s and to buy tickets go to www.premiershiprugby.com/singha7s .
NEWCASTLE FALCONS SQUAD
1 Glen Young
2 Max Davies
3 Harrison Orr
4 Gary Graham
5 Simon Uzokwe
6 Cameron Cowell (captain)
7 Adam Radwan
8 Ben Stevenson
9 Charlie Wilson
10 Brett Connon
11 George Wacokecoke
12 Will Muir
Age: 22. Position in 15s: Back-row/lock
The former Scotland Under-20s international joined the Falcons from Jedforest and has spent much of the past two seasons on dual registration at Doncaster Knights, playing for them in the Championship play-off final and being named in last season’s Championship Dream Team.
Age: 19. Position in 15s: Back-row/lock
Former Sedbergh School captain Davies is entering his second season as a contracted player at Newcastle Falcons, and is playing in his second Singha 7s. This year saw Davies help England Under-20s to a Six Nations Grand Slam, as well as playing for them during the Junior World Championship in Georgia.
Age: 23. Position in 15s: Back-row
Orr, who celebrates his 24th birthday on Saturday, is a former Australia Under-20s forward. The English-qualified player, whose brother Cameron plays prop for Gloucester, joined the Falcons last summer from Championship club Ealing, and is playing in his second Singha 7s.
Age: 24. Position in 15s: Back-row
Former Scotland Under-20s cap Graham joined the Falcons this summer from Championship club Jersey, where he was a first team regular. He has previously represented Carlisle RFC and Gala RFC. His father George Graham is a former Scotland prop who played for the Falcons during their 1997-8 Premiership title-winning season.
Age: 22. Position in 15s: Back-row
England Students international Uzokwe joined the Falcons last summer, and spent the back half of last season playing for National One club Darlington Mowden Park. A former Northampton Saints academy player, his move to Newcastle has seen him switching from hooker to flanker.
Age: 21. Position in 15s: Wing/full-back/scrum-half
Cowell joined the Falcons this summer from the England 7s squad, for whom he played in 38 World Sevens Series matches, scoring nine tries and 32 conversions. Cowell played against the Falcons for Harlequins in last year’s Singha 7s finals day, having come through the London Irish academy.
Age: 19. Position in 15s: Wing
Flying winger Radwan is a lethal finisher who lit up last season’s Singha 7s, scoring a length-of-the-field try with his first touch during the Falcons’ northern group victory at Kingston Park. Continuing his free-scoring form on finals day in Coventry, the former Falcons’ junior academy player has now rejoined the club full-time on senior academy terms. A former pupil of Hartlepool Sixth Form College, Radwan has also played club rugby for Billingham RFC and Darlington Mowden Park.
Age: 19. Position in 15s: Centre
Stevenson is a contracted centre with Newcastle Falcons, who is combining his rugby commitments with a degree course at Durham University. The promising back, who turned 19 less than two weeks ago, made his Falcons first team debut at Saracens in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
Age: 18. Position in 15s: Centre
Wilson is an England Under-18s centre who is starting his first season of full-time rugby with the Falcons, the former Royal Grammar School Newcastle pupil having come through the Falcons’ academy.
Age: 20. Position in 15s: Fly-half/full-back
Connon is a former Ireland Under-20s international who came through the Falcons academy, having been raised in Cumbria. Making his competitive debut in last season’s European Challenge Cup trip to Ospreys, he has also played National One rugby for Blaydon RFC and Tynedale RFC on dual registration.
George Wacokecoke [pronounced ‘Wa-tho-qe-tho-qe’]
Age: 21. Position in 15s: Wing
Born in Fiji but moving to England at the age of six due to his father’s military career, Wakecokecoke has spent times in the academies of both Northampton and Bath before heading north to study at Northumbria University, from where he has earned England Students honours. Wakecokecoke is not a fully-contracted player with the Falcons but has represented the club at A-League level.
Age: 21. Position in 15s: Fly-half
Northumbria University Student Will recently played for the England Development Injured Players Foundation 7s team in the iPro Sport Super 7s Series, and also plays for Guisborough RFC.