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Bombshells by the dozen as Falcons meet the fans.

Byline: RUGBY UNION TRY TIME Rugby talk with MARK SMITH

AND to think I was worried about filling the paper in a quiet week.

Newcastle Falcons' fans forum saw to that, and then some.

It was bombshell after bombshell as the club's top brass answered questions from a packed audience of around 300 supporters, and two days later I am just about catching my breath.

Where to start? Club owner Semore Kurdi at long last confirmed my exclusive of two weeks ago, revealing the region's only Premiership rugby union side have made an offer to buy Gateshead Thunder rugby league club.

He is yet to receive formal acceptance and envisages no cross-over on the rugby side of the two operations, any potential extra burden on the pitch being addressed by the intended installation of a fourth generation synthetic surface.

That has been approved by Premiership Rugby but still requires planning permission from Newcastle City Council, the Falcons happy to make the commitment despite only having three more seasons left on the Kingston Park Stadium lease.

Kurdi confirmed the club had no desire to move from their current home, but said it would be normal to start negotiating 18 months from the June 2017 expiry date.

The owner was reticent to discuss finances other than a stated aim of the club being self-sufficient in 18 months' time, but there were plenty of other announcements.

Season ticket prices have been frozen for next year, with the added bonus that every paying adult season-ticket holder can bring up to two under-11s free of charge.

Rugby World Cup tickets will also come into the equation for season-ticket holders, with details of that scheme to follow in due course.

On the playing side director of rugby Dean Richards confirmed the widelyanticipated signing of Rotherham's goalkicking centre Juan Pablo Socino, and new contracts for young forwards Dom Barrow and Scott Wilson.

He stunned the room when revealing he had been telephoned to ask if he would be interested in taking the Gloucester job, receiving loud applause when stating he told them he had no such intentions. He was less committal on the wider issue of player transfer business.

Refusing to state how many players had signed, even without naming them, he also gave a blank to a question about the contract length of star prospect Zach Kibirige.

Richards gave both barrels to the media for "inaccurate" reporting, adding "some of them even used to work here."

On Joel Hodgson's lack of a Premiership start he insisted he "doesn't talk selection outside of the changing room", but his trademark dry humour earned some well-deserved laughs in an evening of admirable candour.

The club are certainly to be commended for their openness, even if in most cases it was brutal honesty with few promises of major investment in the playing squad.

It certainly gave food for thought ahead of season-ticket renewal time.

BONUS POINT ENGLAND may have lost out in the race for the Six Nations title, but won plenty of plaudits from a Championship of progression a year away from a home World Cup.

SIN BIN SCOTLAND flyer Stuart Hogg has been quick to show remorse for his red card against Wales, but it was still an appalling piece of foul play.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK "YOU want me to sign David Lemi, well I've got news for you. He's too old. He is past his sell-by date."

Newcastle Falcons boss Dean Richards on the 32-year-old Samoan wing who is bound for Bristol, but could play for Worcester at Kingston Park next weekend.

GAME OF THE WEEK NEWCASTLE Falcons visit Gloucester on Saturday, Dean Richards having revealed he turned down the chance to join the Cherry and Whites.

CAPTION(S):

Questions about England Under-20s star Zach Kibirige's contract were blanked
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 20, 2014
Words:633
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