Josh Matavesi says he and his Newcastle Falcons team-mates are relishing the prospect of running out at St James’ Park on Saturday, but that it will be business as usual in terms of their match preparation.
The Falcons face Northampton Saints at the home of Newcastle United in a 5.30pm kick-off which will more than double their previous biggest home crowd, Matavesi stating: “The players are excited and there’s definitely a bit of an edge around training.
“Everyone knows it’s a big game, I like the fact that training has been a bit niggly and it just shows that boys are battling for places. We’ve definitely stepped things up this week, and you can sense this is a big one.”
The Fijian international produced a man-of-the-match performance when Newcastle defeated Northampton in December, the Falcons winning their last four Aviva Premiership meetings with the Saints.
“We know they’re in a different place now to where they were that night, but it was another positive memory for us,” said Matavesi.
“It was a perfect night for rugby, the entire team performed and it was a real collective thing rather than any one player being the star. We didn’t let the game get away from us, we showed huge character to take it at the end and we know they’ll be chomping at the bit to even the scores.
“For us the key is treating it like another game. Clearly there are a lot of things going on around it, left, right and centre, but it’s just about us sticking to what we do and continuing the form we’ve shown all season.”
Impressed by the surroundings as he visited Saturday’s venue for the midweek press launch, the former Ospreys, Racing Metro, Worcester and Exeter man said: “This is actually my first time at St James’ Park.
“I’ve been meaning to come for ages to a football game but I’m an Arsenal fan, and when Newcastle played Arsenal all the tickets went straightaway. I’ll have to wait til next season now, but it will be great to be there on Saturday and to experience the atmosphere.”
Asked how he copes with playing on the big stage, Matavesi said: “The best advice I could give us to stick to your own routine – just do what works for you.
“We’re going down to the stadium on Friday just so we can see the lay-out of the place, see what the changing rooms are like, where we park our cars and all the little things that people probably don’t think about for a normal home game.
“It’s just having that idea of what to expect when you arrive on game day, and I think it will be useful just having that familiarisation when we all head down there on Friday morning. Other than that the advice is not to change what you normally do on a match day.”
Around 25,000 tickets had been sold as of Wednesday afternoon, Matavesi excited by the prospect of what is rapidly becoming a major rugby occasion for the region.
“The crowd at Kingston Park is awesome and they really make a noise, so with the numbers we’re seeing for Saturday it should be an incredible atmosphere at St James’ Park,” he said.
“It will make a big difference for the boys, and we really do have to thank everyone for coming out and supporting what is a really big deal for the Falcons as a club.
“The training week is not that different in the sense that we’re in our usual little bubble at Kingston Park for the duration, we’re preparing as normal for the game and we’re in our familiar surroundings. All we’re focusing on is getting our roles right, and if we do that then we’re in a good position.
“Northampton are a side who are coming back on the up with Alan Gaffney now in charge, things are starting to change for them and they’ve got good players.
“They’ll be saying the same about us, I’m sure, and we’re in a good position so we can rightly take a lot of confidence into the weekend. We all know our game plan, we know our roles within it and Northampton are a team we’ve already beaten this season. Hopefully we can do it for a second time and put ourselves into a really good position for the run-in to the play-offs.”
Tickets for The Big One are available by calling 0871 226 6060 or from www.newcastle-falcons.co.uk .