Bringing England to Newcastle will be special night for north

England's Mark Wilson (right) will be back in Newcastle tonight.
England's Mark Wilson (right) will be back in Newcastle tonight.
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Adopted Geordie Mark Wilson expects Newcastle to embrace its maiden England international as a valuable chance to grow the game in the North East.

Eddie Jones’s World Cup hopefuls play their final warm-up Test against Italy at St James’ Park tonight before heading to Japan 48 hours later.

From a logistics point of view it will be the easiest of England fixtures for Wilson, who lives 10 minutes from the ground.

The Cumbrian moved to Newcastle as a 14-year-old and in 2010 began playing for the Falcons, ensuring a rousing welcome for the rugged flanker.

“Hopefully I’ll get an alright reception,” said Wilson, who has been loaned to Sale next season after Newcastle were relegated from the Gallagher Premiership.

“We had the photos the other day. I had to put both strips on so that might not go down so well!

“It’s Friday night in Newcastle. There’ll be some drunk Geordies and some entertaining characters. It’ll be a good atmosphere.

“My favourite games at the Falcons were always Friday nights because there’s a bit of a buzz. Everyone’s finished work and had a few drinks.

“It’ll certainly be very special. All my youth, if you wanted to watch England you had to go down to Twickenham to see them.

“I’m sure it’ll be pretty special for young north-east kids who love rugby to be able to go to St James’ Park and watch England play.

“For families up north, getting to Twickenham is quite a big effort. I never got the chance to go as a kid which is why this Friday night will be so special for youngsters in the north.

“I’m pretty sure a lot of families will make some pretty good memories.

“I think it will do good for rugby in the region. I remember the 2015 World Cup when games were played there. You could feel the excitement around the place, everyone was talking about it. There’s a bit of a boost which will hopefully encourage a bit of a chain reaction in terms of boosting rugby in the area.”

Wilson, who lines up in a back row that also includes Billy Vunipola and Tom Curry, will be watched playing for England by his mum for the first time in 15 outings.

“My mum never watches so she’ll be in the stands, which will be pretty special. She doesn’t like big crowds. With this one being in Newcastle I don’t think she had an excuse,” he said.

“My wife Amy’s family had season tickets at Newcastle. Her Dad actually took a penalty at Alan Shearer’s testimonial and missed.

“As long as I am more successful than him that’ll be alright!”

Anthony Watson insists England will throw themselves into their final World Cup warm-up Test without fear of injury. For any of the 20 involved in the Newcastle showdown who also are destined for the Far East – centre Joe Marchant and the benched Charlie Ewels and Matt Kvesic are not in the World Cup squad – to suffer a significant injury at this stage of preparations would be a bitter blow.

Watson, however, insists players can not afford to adopt an attitude of self-preservation.

“You can’t worry about it and I’m not worried about it,” said Watson, who has been in fine form since recovering from a serious Achilles injury.

“As soon as you start going into contact at 85 per cent and start worrying about making sure you get on the plane on Sunday, you won’t play as well as you can and you’d probably get injured anyway.”