ZACH KIBIRIGE will not be fit to play in next weekend’s Premiership Rugby 7s series in Darlington, but the winger insists Newcastle Falcons will be focused on winning the competition rather than using it as a step up in their pre-season preparations.
The 19-year-old suffered a displaced fractured fibula and torn ankle ligaments on his Premiership debut against Gloucester in March and is likely to miss the start of the Aviva Premiership season with a return date not pencilled in until the end of September at the earliest.
The injury means the former Yarm School pupil will miss next weekend’s Premiership Rugby 7s, which sees Newcastle take on Leicester Tigers, Sale Sharks and London Welsh at The Northern Echo Arena.
Darlington Mowden Park stepped in to host the Group D action after it was announced Falcons could no longer host the BT Sport televised event on August 2.
Kibirige is no stranger to The Northern Echo Arena having played at the Darlington venue for Yarm and although he can’t take part the young winger believes supporters will be in for a treat.
“It’s fantastic for this event to be coming to the North-East,” Kibirige said. “Some might say it’s a big more of an exciting version of the game, sometimes you get a slog in the 15-a-side, but it’s great for the supporters who might not get to see four top teams play in one place.
“I’ve been to watch a couple of games here. I watched Mowden’s play-off game last year and I also played here once for the school which was a great experience. It was before we played in our Twickenham final because they wanted us to experience playing in a big stadium so we played here and I really enjoyed it.
“Sevens is a lot quicker and it’s more entertaining and there are a lot more tries. It’s hard work for us, but it’s fast flowing and that’s what the fans like to see. It’s an absolute killer when you’ve got to cover so much ground.”
Newcastle have won the competition once before in 2011 and although they are still over six weeks away from the Premiership season, Kibirige insists the squad is hungry to do well.
He said: “It’s certainly not just part of pre-season for us, we’ll be taking it seriously. We did well last year down in Northampton and then did our best in Bath and gave a good account of ourselves.
“Obviously we won it three years ago and we’ll be making a really good effort of it to get that trophy back.”
Having helped Mowden gain promotion to National One at the end of last season, No 8 Talite Vaioleti believes hosting the competition offers the club another chance to showcase their top-flight credentials.
He said: “It’s a good opportunity for the club and also for the arena. After the England Counties, we know that we can host big competitions and hopefully it will create a real demand for the club.
“We’re looking forward to having the four main clubs in the country come to our stadium. It will be first time they have had a run around at the Arena and they will enjoy it.”