Newcastle Falcons will be represented in a major national final on Friday December 2 when their AASE side, Gosforth Academy, take on Exeter College.
The match, held at Saracens’ Allianz Park, is the Falcons’ first ever top national final at AASE (Achieving Academic and Sporting Excellence) level, where up-and-coming players attend Gosforth Academy for an academic and sporting syllabus.
A number of AASE players have already broken through to make their first team debuts for the Falcons, with Callum Chick, George McGuigan and Dan Marshall all graduating from the scheme.
The Falcons’ place in the final was assured after thumping Worcester 40-0 in Wednesday’s last play-off game at Kingston Park, having defeated Saracens’ representatives, Oaklands, the previous week.
Gosforth Academy finished their regular-season campaign placed second in the northern group – huge progress considering the scheme was not set up until 2007.
Newcastle Falcons academy coach James Ponton said: “Our AASE programme was initially set up to widen opportunities for players up here in the region.
“We have a lot of private schools with strong rugby programmes but also there is a lot of talent in the state schools, and we felt that some of those players needed a more advanced programme with competitive playing opportunities to enhance their progress through their investment years.
“These are the players who are targeted for invitation to the scheme – the ones with a lot of untapped potential and often a relatively young training age.”
Ponton added: “There is a maximum of 15 players in each year group, and we’re getting to filling that now.
“We wanted to put our scheme in a setting with a strong academic background so that the lads achieve both on and off the field, and they do that at Gosforth Academy, where the majority of the boys study A-Levels and a Sport Leaders Award, which is the rugby qualification.”
Falcons academy manager Mark Laycock said: “It is a great achievement for our AASE lads to make it to their first ever main national final.
“It is a credit to PJ Butler for the way in which he runs the programme, the talent is plain to see and it is a great effort from the lads to have given themselves this opportunity to win some major national silverware for the club on December 2 in London.”