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Page last updated at 12:36 GMT, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 13:36 UK

Falcons boss backs Wilkinson move

Jonny Wilkinson
Jonny Wilkinson is joining Toulon after 12 years at Kingston Park

Newcastle Falcons head coach Steve Bates believes England international Jonny Wilkinson was right to move to Toulon after 12 years at Kingston Park.

Bates is disappointed to lose a player of Wilkinson's calibre but admitted the fly-half's injuries were one of the main factors in allowing him to leave.

He told BBC Newcastle: "He's a world-class player but in our situation we need all our players on the field.

"One injury has followed another and a change could do him a lot of good."

Wilkinson's switch to French rugby comes after a career in which he won international and domestic honours on Tyneside.

And Bates has paid tribute to his efforts with the Falcons, both on and off the field.

"Jonny has been fantastic. When he's playing he's a fantastic player but when he's not he's done a huge amount of coaching with kids and he's brought on and really helped our young players," he said.

He's been a very positive and massive influence on the club

Steve Bates on Jonny Wilkinson

"He's had a huge impact in the way the club has played and gone about, and the way they've tried to construct the game.

"Obviously we'd have liked to have seen him on the pitch more often but I still think he's been a very positive and massive influence on the club."

Meanwhile Scrum-half Micky Young has been called-up to the England Saxons squad for the Churchill Cup and Bates believes the experience will benefit all parties.

"This is a big step forward for him and I think he'll learn a lot from playing with that group of players," he said.

"I think he'll enjoy it and come back with renewed energy about moving forward to the next stage."

The Falcons have signed Ireland under-20 prop Kieran Brookes on a one-year deal.

Brookes, 19, is a student of Kirkham Grammar School and has played senior first-team rugby with Fylde.

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