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University challenge; Axed Bates lands new rugby role.

SACKED Falcons coach Steve Bates is the new rugby boss at Northumbria University. All but swapping places with new Falcons Academy coach and outgoing Northumbria head coach Richard Arnold, Bates has assumed the new role of rugby consultant at the university. Charged with leading the First XV in British Universities and North One East action, Bates will also take an overview of all men's and women's rugby at Northumbria.

Former Falcons No 8 Arnold left Northumbria last month to return to Kingston Park, and now Bates is back in North East coaching just two months after being sacked by Dave Thompson.

The Falcons chairman removed Bates after another season that drifted into a relegation battle, despite preseason Heineken Cup qualification goals.

Bates oversaw Newcastle's most comprehensive squad overhaul in the last off-season, dealing with the loss of bigname, long-serving talents like Jonny Wilkinson, Jamie Noon and Tom May.

Despite some shrewd transfer business, though, Bates was unable to marry everything together during the course of that single season - leaving the Falcons to pull off two vital wins, over Gloucester and Sale, as the campaign drew to a close.

Arnold, meanwhile, has moved in the opposite direction after leading Northumbria to three straight promotions in the grassroots leagues.

Northumbria will battle it out in North One East along with the likes of Morpeth and Percy Park this coming term, and Bates will put as much stall by local pyramid progression as British Universities success.

Bates said: "In my previous role with the Newcastle Falcons, I enjoyed a very good working relationship with the University.

"And this is an excellent opportunity to build on the foundations laid down by Northumbria's previous head of rugby, Richard Arnold.

"The key for me is to ensure that the University's players are looked after and that we continue their rugby education to the highest standard."

Northumbria head of sport Ian Elvin told the Chronicle that going after Bates as a replacement for Arnold was not a tough decision.

The two men have worked closely during Bates' two stints at the Falcons, and Elvin expects the new appointment to prove a real success.

Elvin said: "Steve's track record speaks for itself and we're delighted to have him on board.

"I have known Steve as a player and a coach for many years and he is a very intelligent and experienced individual. We are putting together a top-class team at Northumbria designed to develop and improve rugby across the University and Steve is key to that."

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NEW JOB: Steve Bates
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 7, 2010
Words:424
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