NEWCASTLE Falcons will find out at lunchtime whether or not it is worth setting off for tomorrow’s scheduled match at Cross Keys.
The Welsh part-timers are the Falcons’ final group opponents in Pool D of the British and Irish Cup and will hold a pitch inspection on their Pandy Park ground at 11am.
With Wales expected to bear the brunt of today’s predicted snowfall the prospects of play remain far from clear, but for Newcastle’s director of rugby Dean Richards the uncertainty does not seem to be taking too much of a toll.
“In theory, the game is going ahead at this stage,” said the former England and Lions great.
“There will be a pitch inspection down there at 11 o’clock and assuming it is fine at that point we are due to travel down on the bus at noon.
“I spoke to them on Tuesday to get an update.
“I had an email from them yesterday and they are saying at this moment the pitch is good.
“It doesn’t have any snow on it, or at least it didn’t when they sent the email, but the forecast is for snow during the day so we will just have to be like everybody else in waiting to see what happens.”
Despite the Falcons already being safely through to the quarter-finals after five wins from five, tomorrow’s fixture will still have to be played in some form or other, with home advantage in the last eight still to be decided.
The Kingston Park outfit are third best of the eight pool leaders, Bedford and Cornish Pirates one and two.
Newcastle only lead Bristol by points difference in a competition led largely by English clubs.
Leinster, Munster, Moseley and Llandovery are the other table-topping sides going into the final round, with tournament rules stating the games need to completed even if tomorrow’s scheduled slot is not feasible. Richards added: “If the pitch is unplayable tomorrow afternoon the contingency would be to play it at the same venue the day after.
“Failing that we come back up on the bus and see what happens in terms of a future date, but we will take a load of snow shovels down with us and try to get it on if we can!”
Understanding the frustrations of players and supporters alike in just wanting a decision one way or the other before making a 600-mile journey for nothing, he added: “It is just one of those things, and everyone wants the game to be played if is at all possible.
“The weather seems to be conspiring against us, but where there’s a will there’s a way.”
The Falcons and Cross Keys have previous when it comes to relocated matches, their last meeting in the 2000-1 European Challenge Cup seeing Pandy Park flooded and the game memorably played out on a local park field – bandstand and all.
Former chairman Dave Thompson has dined out on the story for more than a decade, with international stars Doddie Weir, Inga Tuigamala and Gary Armstrong among those rolling their sleeves up for a 25-11 victory having smashed the same side 99-8 in the North East.
The Falcons did not quite hit those same heights during October’s 52-5 triumph, a game which saw 17-year-old wing Zach Kibirige announce himself on the senior stage with a well-taken try in an accomplished first-team debut.
Richards said: “In fairness when Cross Keys came up to Kingston Park I thought they were very street-wise and niggly.
“That is what you expect from a Welsh team and I quite like it because it tests the boys in a slightly different way.
“Their resolve, understanding and ability to control situations will all be examined and I don’t mind that.”