Newcastle and Northumbria’s men’s rugby first teams will face off against each other after all, as part of an afternoon of rugby at St James’ Park.
The football ground will host a Premiership fixture between Newcastle Falcons and Northampton Saints on Saturday 24 March, with the varsity match acting as a curtain-raiser for the main event.
Dubbed “The Big One” by its organisers, the Premiership and varsity games form part of a day highlighting the best of North East rugby that they hope will become an annual event. In the morning of 24 March more than 100 junior teams will take part in a cup competition at Kingston Park, and local rugby clubs are being encouraged to play their fixtures earlier in the day to ensure they can head to St James’ Park to support the Falcons.
Dean Richards, director of rugby at Newcastle Falcons, said: “It will be a memorable day which people will want to be part of.”
Newcastle and Northumbria will open the drama at St James’ Park with a 3pm kick-off, with this match swiftly followed by the Falcons and Saints at 5:30pm. Adult tickets start from £10.
The match takes place a week after Newcastle students break up for Easter, although teaching at Northumbria finishes just the day before the big match.
Mick Hogan, the Falcons’ managing director, said of the varsity match: “That is a fixture which attracts a big following in its own right given the huge student population in Newcastle.”
Newcastle and Northumbria will open the drama at St James’ Park with a 3pm kick-off, with this match swiftly followed by the Falcons and Saints at 5:30pm
Organisational difficulties precluded the traditional October Clash of the Titans match between the two universities, and with Newcastle playing in a league below their cross-city counterparts in BUCS, The Big One promises to be the pinnacle of this year’s rugby rivalry.
Matt Carter, director of rugby at Newcastle University, described the match as a “magnificent opportunity” for the men’s first team, adding, “We’re looking forward to taking on the current top dogs at university rugby.” Until Wednesday Northumbria sat at the top of the BUCS Super Rugby league table, with Newcastle currently leading the North A division.
A last-minute try saw Newcastle narrowly win the most recent Clash of the Titans and take a fourth consecutive victory over Northumbria. It is now over three years since Northumbria’s firsts came out on top in the Tyneside derby.
Jack Pennell, NURFC Co-President, added "This is a wonderful opportunity for NURFC to show our class on such big stage in front of a huge crowd. There is nothing better than beating Northumbria and there is not a better place to do so, than at St James' Park."
The Big One’s organisers are aiming to sell 20,000 tickets for the double fixture, which takes place in the 52,000 capacity stadium more traditionally associated with a different kind of football. St James’ Park has hosted rugby matches in the past, including during 2015’s Rugby World Cup. The 24 March date coincides with an international break that will put both Newcastle and Sunderland football clubs out of action.