Newcastle's Tuilagi faces ban
Newcastle Falcons have been kicking their heels waiting for the new season to get under way after its delayed start for the World Cup, but the tournament has now taken out one of their key men for five weeks.
Experienced winger Alesano Tuilagi, who has scored 48 tries in the Premiership, has been banned for five weeks for an act of foul play for Samoa against Japan.
The 34-year old will be back for the start of the Challenge Cup but will miss the opening four Premiership clashes against Gloucester, Northampton Saints, Exeter and Worcester.
Newcastle, who have not won an opening weekend fixture since 2007, host David Humphreys' Gloucester next weekend. They are in action this weekend and wrapped up their preseason campaign last weekend when they went down 27-18 away to Sale Sharks.
That game was in the Knights of the North tournament which they organised with Leicester Tigers to help prepare for the delayed start to the season.
They were down 12-11 at the interval with skipper Will Welch getting a try and while they got a penalty try after the restart, they went down to a Sale side for whom Peter Stringer was impressive.
The game saw former All Black Mike Delany make his debut for Falcons after his move from Clermont Auvergne.