Fletcher will be own man

Newcastle begin life after Rob Andrew tomorrow with his successor John Fletcher insisting: "I will do things my way." [more]

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Newcastle begin life after Rob Andrew tomorrow with his successor John Fletcher insisting: "I will do things my way."

As Andrew, the longest-serving rugby director in Premiership history, settles down to a new role as the Rugby Football Union’s elite rugby director, Fletcher takes charge for Falcons’ league opener at Northampton.

Newcastle wasted little time in promoting their former academy boss to fill the vacancy created by Andrew’s move south.

Fletcher knows a good start is essential as Falcons face an opening month which pitches them into battle against Northampton, Worcester, Saracens and London Irish.

"I’ve been part of the coaching team for the last five years, so the transition has been pretty smooth in all honesty," he said.

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"Rugby players are very resilient – these things don’t affect them as much as you might think – so the lads have all just been getting on with their preparation and training as normal.

"I haven’t changed as a person since taking over, but what I am emphasising is that I will do things my way.

"There are things I have changed in training just because I might have different beliefs to other coaches, but it is very rare you find two coaches who think exactly the same, so that is just normal."

Newcastle will arrive at Franklin’s Gardens without several injured players, including Mathew Tait, Mark Mayerhofler and Geoff Parling, but Jonny Wilkinson is fit and raring to go following his well-chronicled fitness battles during the past three years.

Northampton hand a Premiership debut to former Connacht lock Christian Short, while England pair Ben Cohen and Steve Thompson make a prompt start after sitting out the world champions’ summer tour of Australia.

Champions Sale Sharks face an immediate test of their title credentials when they visit Leicester on Sunday.

Sharks, inspired by England fly-half Charlie Hodgson, smashed Leicester 45-20 in last season’s Premiership final, and a capacity Welford Road crowd will bay for revenge.

"When you have defeats like that, the most important thing is to get back on the field," said Leicester skipper Martin Corry.

"But because that was the last game of the season, it seems like we have been waiting around for an eternity.

"We are always desperate to start the season, but when I saw that fixture being pulled out, there was a smile on my face."

Italian Test prop Martin Castrogiovanni makes his league debut for Leicester – England tighthead Julian White is on the bench – but White’s international colleague Lewis Moody sits out the season opener.
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owerhouse England prop Andrew Sheridan, meanwhile, has recovered from a neck injury to feature among Sale’s replacements, with new signing Chris Bell lining up in midfield alongside Chris Mayor.

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