The Goode times may be over at Newcastle but Andy is still smiling
Andy Goode says he will leave Newcastle with a smile on his face as the former England international fly-half prepares for a second stint in retirement.
The 35-year-old reaches the end of a three-month deal when one of his former clubs Wasps arrive at Kingston Park on Sunday, having come out of retirement to help Newcastle's Aviva Premiership survival bid through some impressive displays highlighted by trademark world-class goalkicking.
The Falcons have marketed this weekend's encounter as 'Goode Sunday' in tribute to their mid-season recruit, who will be among Newcastle's replacements for a final fling.
"When the contract came round on December 28, it was always for three months because of Mike Delany's injury," Goode said.
"I have enjoyed it, but that time has come to an end. Mike is back now, and I leave with a smile on my face as I hang up the boots again.
"I think they (Newcastle supporters) probably look at my body shape and the fact I like a beer, and they probably think they could do it as well. I probably relate to them a bit more than the chiselled athletes we see week in, week out in most teams.
"The fans have been great with me, and I am grateful for that. First and foremost, I had to win over the boys and earn their respect. We have won a few games along the way, and it has been good fun."
And Newcastle rugby director Dean Richards added: "To be fair to Andy, he has produced the goods. His body is just about clapped out at the moment.
"If he comes on this weekend, it will probably be his last game of competitive rugby, and I hope he does come on.
"He has been embraced by the Geordies up here in a way that many others are not, and he is a character that everyone in the area has taken to."
However, Newcastle - they are 31 points and eight places below Wasps in the Premiership - will have their work cut out to halt a Wasps side firmly on course to reach this season's title play-offs.
Wasps rugby director Dai Young said: "We know how important the next two matches are in the Premiership (Newcastle away and Northampton at home), before we switch to Europe. They will have a huge bearing on where we finish in the league this season.
"Our goal has always been top six, and I think we've got one foot in that top six now, but the next two weeks could determine whether we secure that goal and whether we can stay in the top-four mix, come the end of the season."
Leicester, just behind Wasps in fourth, welcome back England Grand Slam trio Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs and Dan Cole away to Sale on Sunday, where a win would keep them above fierce East Midlands rivals Northampton, who are also in action, hosting Harlequins.
Assessing the Leicester challenge, Sale rugby director Steve Diamond said: "They are a top-four side, but we have beaten three of them this season, so we want to make it four this weekend. We want to keep that record going at home and stay as close as we can to the group of teams above us.
"We know that Tigers play differently to Wasps, and we've got to be up for a fight up-front, as we normally are, and take some pride in our defence."
Sale show a number of changes from the side comprehensively beaten by Wasps last time out. Flanker David Seymour captains a team that sees returns for Will Addison, Tommy Taylor, Sammy Tuitupou, Vadim Cobilas, Bryn Evans and Eifion Lewis Roberts, but centre Johnny Leota misses out due to suspension.
England captain Dylan Hartley, who was carried off during the Six Nations finale against France last weekend, does not feature for Northampton against Quins, with Saints boss Jim Mallinder making five changes. Centre Luther Burrell, wing George North and fly-half Stephen Myler all start, along with prop Kieran Brookes and flanker Tom Wood.
England's Mike Brown, Joe Marler, Jack Clifford and Danny Care all feature in Quins' starting line-up, with scrum-half Care making his 200th first team appearance. Wales centre Jamie Roberts also plays following his Six Nations commitments, while England flanker Chris Robshaw has been named among the replacements.