Ruck and Maul: Falcons fans fly the flag with funds for victims of earthquake

Newcastle Falcons are doing their bit for the earthquake victims of L'Aquila, the Italian town whose rugby team have been national champions five times. The friendly links forged when Newcastle played in L'Aquila in the European Challenge Cup in 2005 prompted Falcons fans to raise over £400 on their buses going to Saracens last Sunday, and there will be a further collection around Kingston Park at today's match with Bath. The donations will be channelled through the Italian Rugby Federation, who are mourning the loss of L'Aquila's Italy Under-20 prop Lorenzo Sebastiani. Many of the club's players dug survivors out of the rubble, and second-row Ollie Hodge, formerly of Coventry, Bristol and Bath, helped move patients from the quake-damaged hospital. "You just do what you can in a sit-uation like that," said Hodge. "It was like a war zone."

No brotherly love for Nick

The Bath full-back Nick Abendanon must be sick of the sight of the Tuilagi brothers, of Leicester and Samoa. An off-the-ball tackle by Alesana Tuilagi in last week's epic Heineken Cup semi-final at the Walkers Stadium cost Abendanon a shoulder injury, and the perpetrator was banned for one match by his club and has a date with a disciplinary committee next Thursday. In a Premiership match at Welford Road in March 2007, Alesana and his brother Henry achieved the rare feat of separate trips to the sin-bin in the space of a minute for tackles on Abendanon. The good news for Abendanon – who was off the field at the Walkers when he should have been defending Julien Dupuy's winning try – is that the injury to his a/c joint is not as serious as first thought, and he should make Saturday's match with Saracens. Meanwhile, the next Tuilagi has rolled off the rank. The sixth rugby-playing brother, Manu, has starred for England Under-18s and his school, John Cleveland College, in a cup final win at Twickenham.

Tom off to Toulon too?

The presence of Jonny wilkinson at a Toulon match last month indicated the England fly-half's interest in a big-money transfer, and it looks like double trouble on Tyneside as Ruck and Maul understands Wilkinson's recent stand-in Tom May is going to Toulon too. Despite being halfway through a testimonial year, May is thought to fancy the moolah which has already snared Juan Fernandez Lobbe and Sébastien Bruno from Sale, Felipe Contepomi of Leinster and Cardiff Blues' Jamie Robinson. All Toulon need to do now is avoid relegation. They are one place above the drop zone with a tough run-in.

Exiles fail to reach summit

Northampton turned in an impressive attacking display and survived a London Irish fightback to deny the visitors the chance to return to the top of the Guinness Premiership yesterday with a 21-17 win at Franklin's Gardens. Juandre Kruger and Lee Dickson ran in the Saints tries, Stephen Myler kicking 11 points.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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