Coach Tony Munro puts the Newcastle pack through its paces. Picture: Marina NeilNEWCASTLE coach Tony Munro has barred his players from kicking the ball at training.

That edict will change, albeit slightly, at the Country Championship in Bowral this weekend.

“We are going to run it from everywhere, but if we have to kick, we want to make sure we put it into touch,” Munro said.

“We really want to attack the opposition line-out.

“Dylan Heins, Joe Akkersdyk, Shaun Rich and Glenn Stone are natural jumpers. They all very quick off the ground.

“It was one of the features in the trials we played.

“If we are out of our 22, it will be a grubber, otherwise Blake Creighton, Mark Butler and Cal McDonald, with their big boots, will send it downtown.

“When they do put it out, we don’t want it to go out shallow so they get a quick throw in.

“We don’t want to let teams get momentum off kick returns or quick line-outs.

“The idea is to starve the opposition of the ball, don’t give them a chance to come at you and keep the ball in hand as much as possible.”

Traditionally the nature of representative rugby – limited preparation and the coming together of players from different clubs – has stymied attacking game plans.

Not so under Munro.

“We have an attacking structure where we can play off the 10 or the 12,” he said.

“Creighto will take the ball to the line and Mark Butler is the same.

“It also gives us a ball distributor on either side of the breakdown.

“It is a high-tempo game, and the guys are feeling it, but they are really taking to it and enjoying it.

“When we picked the team … we made sure we had combinations in key areas.

“Jay Strachan [halfback] and Blake Creighton [five-eighth] have played a lot together. Cal McDonald [fullback] and Bill Coffey [winger] are teammates at Wanderers and previously played with the halves.

“Eric Vasukicakau [outside centre] and Sirelli Bainivalu [winger] are at Hamilton.

Newcastle, whose six-year reign ended with a 36-14 loss to Central West in the final in Mudgee last season, meet Central Coast on Saturday.

The defending champions take on Illawarra in the other match on Saturday. The two winners meet in the final on Sunday.

“If we get past Central Coast, and we are confident we should, I think Illawarra will be the dark horse,” Munro said. “Central West have lost six or so players from last year.

“Illawarra have a good back row led by Gavin Holder and have a couple of other powerful runners.

“That is why we don’t want to give them a chance to wind up.”

Newcastle had an opposed session against the under-20 representative side on Monday and will finalise preparations with a hit-out against Wanderers on Thursday.

“Against the colts, after about three phases we were catching them short,” Munro said.

“We were stretching them, moving the defence around and creating space out wide.

“It was semi-opposed, and you are not throwing as many into the breakdown.

“It’s not a true indication, but I’d rather see that the space is being found than no space appearing.”

Newcastle: 1 Ben Christensen, 2 Steve Lamont, 3 Colin Hovell, 4 Joe Akkersdyk, 5 Matt Lanzini, 6 Ben Ham, 7 Dylan Heins, 8 Va Talaileva, 9 Jay Strachan, 10 Blake Creighton, 11 Bill Coffey, 12 Mark Butler, 13 Eric Vasukicakau, 14 Sirelli Bainivalu, 15 Cal McDonald, 16 Dan Collins, 17 Andrew Tuala, 18 Mac Rae, 19 Shaun Rich 20 Glenn Stone, 21 Dan Murch, 22 Tapaki Rahui, 23 Ivan Walkling

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