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Leslie's arrival ruffles Falcons' feathers
February 10, 2000

Newcastle's new signing John Leslie was already giving his new club a selection headache within hours of being officially unveiled as a Falcons player.

Scotland's New Zealand-born captain is hoping to recover from his hip injury in time to make his Premiership debut at Leicester on Saturday.

But Leslie's arrival at Kingston Park means Newcastle have three overseas players on their books Leslie, Samoan Inga Tuigamala and South African prop Marius Hurter and they are only allowed to field two in any Premiership game.

Tuigamala, who has been living in Britain for six years, has applied for a British passport which would solve Newcastle's problem.

But he said: "I haven't heard anything from the Home Office other than the fact they were considering my application and they said it could take anything from three months to as long as a year from the date I applied, which was last year.

"I also have to go for an interview and I haven't had a date for that yet. I'm qualified in terms of residency but there are procedures to go through," added Tuigamala, who became rugby union's record signing three seasons ago in a five-year deal believed to be worth £1million.

Although Leslie is qualified to play for Scotland, he does not hold a British or European passport and Newcastle will face the problem of who to leave out at Welford Road if he is fit and they decide to hand him his Premiership debut.

"John is a big signing for the club, a major landmark in setting us up for the next three or four years,'' said Newcastle boss Rob Andrew.

"With regard to Inga's passport application, we will just have to wait and see and what happens on Saturday will depend on how John progresses in training for the rest of the week. We will decide on Saturday what the team will be."

Leslie, who has signed a three-and-half year contract, chose Newcastle because of the potential the Falcons have.

"I was very impressed with the people at the club and their plans for the future, and then there is the chance of playing outside Jonny Wilkinson," he said.

"Along with everyone else, I think he is an exceptional talent and I'm looking forward to the prospect of linking up with him.

"The injury in Rome was a real sickener. But it had nothing to do with my ankle which I injured against South Africa at the beginning of the World Cup, nor with the fact that I haven't played since then.

"It was one of those inevitable contact injuries given the hit I got on my hip and was quite an intense injury which meant I had no option but to come off.

"The good side, however, is that it should calm down very quickly, and I definitely hope to be fit for the match at Leicester on Saturday. That is the goal I have set myself, and I think it is a realistic one."

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