Andy Goode is in line to make his final appearance for Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park on Sunday, having been named on the bench for the Aviva Premiership visit of Wasps.
The 35-year-old former England fly-half is the second-highest points scorer in Premiership history, his three-month deal with the Falcons reaching a conclusion after coming out of retirement around the turn of the year.
With the Wasps game billed as ‘Goode Sunday’ in the pre-match marketing material, director of rugby Dean Richards was at pains to point out the positive impact made by the experienced stand-off during his brief but productive spell on Tyneside.
He said: “Andy has been a big influence around the place at a time when he had a lot of injuries, with Mike Delany and Tom Catterick both out. He has been absolutely fantastic for us. His bit of experience in terms of showing us how to get around the field has been invaluable to the youngsters.
“To be fair to him he has produced the goods. His body is just about clapped out at the moment. If he comes on this weekend it will probably be his last game of competitive rugby, and I hope he does come on. He has been embraced by the Geordies up here in a way that many others are not, and he is a character that everyone in the area has taken to.”
Goode said: “When the contract came round on December 28 it was always for three months because of Mike Delany’s injury. I have enjoyed it but that time has come to an end, Mike is back now and I leave with a smile on my face as I hang up the boots again.”
On his status as a fans’ favourite, he added: “I think they probably look at my body shape and the fact I like a beer, and they probably think they could do it as well. I probably relate to them a bit more than the chiselled athletes we see week in week out in most teams. The fans have been great with me and I am grateful for that. First and foremost I had to win over the boys and earn their respect, we have won a few games along the way and it has been good fun.”
Sunday sees scrum-half Michael Young play his 100th competitive game for the Falcons, the side showing four changes from the one which took a bonus point at Bath last Friday.
Young replaces Sonatane Takulua in a back line which also sees the return of centre Adam Powell and winger Alex Tait – Sean Robinson the only addition to the forward pack as he replaces Mouritz Botha.
On Young’s century of appearances, Richards said: “Michael is outstanding. He is competitive, his skill set is challenging the boys every single week and he adds a huge amount to what we are about.”
Having lost 9-8 to Wasps when the sides met in Coventry last month, he added: “There have probably been four of those this year where, had we shown a little more accuracy, we would have won. Worcester is one, Wasps was another, as was Bath and there are a few more we can think of.
“We were disappointed on the day down at Wasps to lose by a point, and we know what they have got to offer. We know how they are going to play, it will be a physical battle, but we are ready for it and our boys are more than capable of competing.”
Tickets for Sunday’s match are available by visiting www.newcastlefalcons.co.uk , calling 0871 226 60 60 or from Kingston Park in person. Supporters are advised the telephone hotline and ticket office are open from 10am to 4pm on Good Friday and Saturday, then from 9am on Easter Sunday.
Newcastle Falcons team to face Wasps (Sunday, 3pm, Kingston Park)
15 Simon Hammersley
14 Alex Tait
13 Chris Harris
12 Adam Powell
11 Marcus Watson
10 Mike Delany
9 Michael Young
1 Rob Vickers
2 George McGuigan
3 Taione Vea
4 Calum Green
5 Sean Robinson
6 Mark Wilson
7 Will Welch (captain)
8 Nili Latu
16 Scott Lawson
17 Alex Rogers
18 Mike Cusack
19 Ally Hogg
20 Sinoti Sinoti
21 Sonatane Takulua
22 Andy Goode
23 Belisario Agulla