Newcastle Falcons launched a brand new community scheme on Armistice Day as Premiership Rugby clubs paid their respects to the Armed Forces across the weekend.
Dean Richards’ charges beat the Cardiff Blues 57-0 in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on Saturday, and marked the occasion by unveiling ‘Falcons Forces’ – a new initiative to demonstrate the club’s support of current and former services personnel.
And Darren Greco, of the Falcons Community Foundation, is thrilled the club has chosen to embrace the large veteran’s community in the north east.
“It seemed an obvious decision to help the armed forces,” he said. “There’s a big number of veterans in the area and a lot of links between rugby and the forces.
“It made sense to start a programme now. It will also help out as many people as possible who might be suffering with PTSD or struggling to get back into work.
“We need to get more people involved in rugby, and with the match on Armistice Day it was a great opportunity to showcase the initiative. It’s was really special.”
As well as a curtain-raiser game between Infantry North and Artillery North on the main pitch, a traditional two-minute’s silence ahead of the 5pm kick-off was led by the Royal Fusiliers and TyneMet College Uniformed Services.
Half-time saw a pitch walk by the two regimental teams from the day’s first fixture, along with 50 veterans who were guests of the club on the day. Limited edition shirts featuring the British Legion Poppy were sold for £20.
Last weekend Worcester Warriors, Exeter Chiefs, Leicester Tigers, London Irish, Wasps and Saracens hosted Remembrance Day commemorations as they staged home matches.
Gloucester Rugby put a special edition shirt on sale, and the first XV turned out wearing the special poppy and camouflage-inspired design for 47-7 win against London Irish.
Only 1,000 of the shirts were made available with proceeds donated to the Royal British Legion.
Elsewhere over the weekend, Northampton Saints laid a wreath at the war memorial in front of the Barwell Stand at Franklin’s Gardens and observed a minute’s silence prior to kick-off ahead of their 41-7 win against Dragons.
The poem When you go home by John Maxwell Edmonds was read in the stadium and a raffle and auction of signed club memorabilia was conducted to raise funds.
Harlequins and Worcester Warriors walked out together and stood for a minute’s silence, while poppies were sold in the Stadium near most entrances ahead of their game. Quins also offered discounted tickets for the armed forces and emergency service before beating the Warriors 45-37 in a classic encounter.
Elsewhere, Bath Rugby and Sale Sharks displayed acts of remembrance before their matches against Leicester Tigers and Saracens respectively.
Sale Sharks played in a limited-edition orange kit with the logo of the match sponsor Once upon a Smile, a charity which provides emotional and practical support to bereaved families, during their 29-22 win.
Bath also staged a post-game auction for the charity and welcomed the Samaritans to the match against the Tigers to help promote what they do.