Following a nail-biting season, the Falcons have also retained the services of Tom May, Michael Stephenson, Mark Mayerhofler, Dave Walder, Hall Charlton, Andrew Mower, Micky Ward, Marius Hurter, Hugh Vyvyan, Ian Peel, Phil Dowson and John Dunbar. 2002/3 signings Mark Andrews and Warren Britz will also remain in the Falcons colours.
Pre-season training began on the 1st July for some ofthe team. Others, including Jonny Wilkinson and Jamie Noon fulfilled their international commitments as part the winning England squad in New Zealand and Australia. Hugh Vyvyan and Dave Walder returned to the fold this week after celebrating international success with England's A squad in Canada and Japan.
The Newcastle Falcons pre-season preparations have already been confirmed and include the Middlesex Sevens on the 16th August 2003 and two pre-season friendlies against Glasgow (away) on the 22nd August, and Llanelli (away) on the 29th August 2003.
The 2003/4 season kicks off with two home games in succession - against Saracens on Sunday 14th September, and Sale Sharks on Sunday 21st September, at the new slightly later kick-off time of 3pm.
In line with Premier Rugby Policy, the Falcons will be running a Development team, as opposed to the U21 team next season, which will predominantly play on a Monday night. This continues to be part of the Newcastle
Falcons England Rugby Academy and has already attracted future stars David Wilson (England U19), Geoff Parling (England U21), Ben Woods (England U21), Mark Rennie (Scotland U21) and Shaun Richardson.
Rob Andrew, Director of Rugby at Newcastle Falcons, said: "Last season was a real rollercoaster ride for the Newcastle Falcons. We started the season poorly and had to work hard to finish the season on a high havingsecured Premiership status." He added: "During the summer we have refocused our thoughts and brought in Alex, Garath and Ben to further strengthen the team. We are looking forward to the challenges ahead of us and are confident of a much improved season in 2003-2004."