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High Noon for Falcons pair.

Byline: By Duncan Madsen

It's payback time for two of the Newcastle Falcons top backs when they take on Saracens in their opening Zurich Premiership game of the season at Kingston Park tomorrow afternoon (3.0).

For centre Jamie Noon and fly half Dave Walder are still smarting from being omitted from Clive Woodward's final England World Cup squad and they are determined to prove that they should have been bound for Australia.

"It has taken a little while to get over it and start to get back into the way the Falcons have been doing things," said Noon.

"It is a strange feeling but I know I have a point to prove and I am determined to start from where I left off last year."

The fact that Walder is in the same boat as himself has helped Noon adjust and accept the huge disappointement and he is delighted he will be playing outside his Falcons team-mate and fellow initial England squad member tomorrow.

"Dave has looked awesome in training with the England squad and he was told it was only his goalkicking that stopped him from going to the World Cup," added Noon.

"But he has been out of action for virtually a year with a broken leg and his kicking under pressure was never tested, while the rest of his game was shown to be in excellent nick and I am really looking forward to playing outside him in the Premiership, starting against Saracens tomorrow.

"Jonny Wilkinson may be with England for the World Cup but I think our fans will be very impressed with Dave's game at fly half.

"What has happened with England is water under the bridge and now it is a question of getting off to a good start in the Premiership."

Noon's words were underlined by Falcons boss Rob Andrew, who said: "It is crucial we get off to a good start with a win against Saracens tomorrow.

"We have two home games at the start - against Saracens and then Sale Sharks a week tomorrow - and it is vital we win both if we are to achieve anything t his season.

"Everyone here is aware of that and we are very positive and raring to go."

Saracens have made a lot of changes and although they have never won at Kingston Park, Andrew is expecting a hard qame.

"They have virtually signed a new and very big front five, and while their backs are virtually the same, we know they are very quick," added Andrew.

"With Rod Kafer as their new coach they will be trying different things, but we know him from his two season at Leicester, while Andy Blades knows him even better from his time at ACT Brumbies.

"Former All Black skipper Taine Randell will be a huge influence on their back row but at the end of the day, it is up to us to perform and we all know that."

Saracens include at prop new signing Steven Sparks, the former Blyth and West Hartlepool player, but new skipper Simon Raiwalui, who will also be making his debut, will be partnered by Kris Chesney in the second row and Alex Codling failed a late fitness test.

"Newcastle is a tough opening game for the club at a ground where we haven't won." said Kafer, "but the results last season suggest both sides are quite evenly matched.

"We lost Alex Codling after he failed a late fitness test so we're sticking with last week's second row pairing in our friendly against Harlequins.

"On the positive side, Thomas Castaignede is fully fit and raring to go as are the rest of the players and they're all keen to get out on the pitch tomorrow and get to work."

NEWCASTLE FALCONS: J Shaw; M Stephenson, J Noon, T May, B Gollings; D Walder, J Grindal; M Ward, N Makin, M Hurter, G Archer, M Andrews (capt), E Taione, W Britz, H Vyvyan. Subs: P Godman, H Charlton, D Wilson, W Kay, I Peel, C Hamilton, P Dowson.

SARACENS: T Castaignede; R Haughton, B Johnston, K Sorrell, N McAvoy; A Goode, M Williams; S Sparks, J Ross, E Bergamaschi, S Raiwalui (capt), K Chesney, T Roques, R Peacey, T Randell. Subs: J Parkes, A Croall, B Broster, B Skirving, D Kirton, P Bailey, A Wynnan. Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 13, 2003
Words:727
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