Falcons boost forward pack
NEWS: Newcastle Falcons have strengthened their forward pack for next season with the signings of Lyon prop Sami Mavinga and Jersey Reds flank Gary Graham, while new contracts have been confirmed for prop Jon Welsh and centre Chris Harris.
Mavinga, 23-years-old, is known to the Falcons after playing twice against them during this season’s European Challenge Cup, while Graham, 24-years-old, joins the club with which his father George won the 1997/8 Premiership title.
Mavinga scored against the Falcons while playing for Lyon during December’s European Challenge Cup encounter over in France, also starting in the return leg at Kingston Park Stadium the following week. The 115kg forward has featured nine times in the competition for Lyon, for whom he has made five top-flight league starts this season after coming through the club’s academy system.
Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said: "Sami is a player who stood out for Lyon during their two Challenge Cup games against us this season. That put him on our radar, and from there it has been a case of watching more of him in action and getting a fuller picture of what Sami can offer.
"He certainly carries well, he is a big strong boy and brings a lot of aggression to the role. We look forward to working with him over the summer and incorporating him into what is already a good group of front-row forwards for the coming campaign,"
On the signing of Gary Graham, Richards added: "Gary is a tenacious forward whose physicality has impressed us. He has been a very consistent performer for Jersey in the Championship, he defends well, is strong over the ball and with the skill set he possesses he can add to what is already a very competitive area of our squad.”
Stirling-born Graham has featured predominantly at open-side flank for Jersey Reds in this season’s Greene King IPA Championship, the forward having represented Gala RFC and Carlisle RFC prior to his move to the Channel Island just over two years ago.
Fellow Scot Jon Welsh heads the first wave of contract renewals as Newcastle make good on their desire for a stable summer on the retention front, the 11-times-capped tight-head having made 29 appearances for the club since joining from Glasgow Warriors.
Harris, meanwhile, renews terms with the Falcons after making 45 first team appearances, the academy graduate scoring two tries in six outings during 2017 after recovering from an early-season ankle injury.
Richards said: "In Jon and Chris we have two proven performers. The fact that they see their future here underlines the positive feeling about the direction in which the club is going, and we look forward to announcing further key renewals in due course,"
The Falcons have already confirmed the signings for next season of French centre Maxime Mermoz (Leicester Tigers), Canada wing DTH van der Merwe (Scarlets), Fiji centre Josh Matavesi (Ospreys), No.8 Ryan Burrows (Yorkshire Carnegie) and flyhalf Joel Matavesi (Redruth).