Newcastle Falcons have made just one change to their side for Friday’s Aviva Premiership visit of London Irish, with Alex Tait coming into the team.
The fit-again full-back replaces Simon Hammersley following the ankle injury he picked up in last Saturday’s 33-32 triumph at Bath, Newcastle fielding an otherwise unchanged side as they aim to build on the flying start which has seen them winning three of their four league games this season.
Defence coach John Wells said ahead of the 7.45pm kick-off: “It’s fair to say we’re pretty chuffed about where we are, and it all comes back to the work we did in pre-season with regards to what we felt we needed to do to compete. Because of the quality of that pre-season work we have been able to transfer those things into our games, but it’s early days yet and we know the levels we need to hit if we want to remain in this kind of company up near the top of the league.
“Keeping a lid on all the hype is probably the next challenge, because we’ve won a few games and people are beginning to blow smoke up our backsides a little. We need to make sure that it’s not just a good start, that it’s really building something over a longer period of time and we’re mindful that we’re only four games into a 22-game season.
“The key now is to not only win the games that we should be winning, but to then do it against teams who historically have given us a good hiding. Last weekend was a classic example because our previous visit to Bath saw them putting 50-odd points on us in a shocking performance, and even when they put 32 unanswered points on us last Saturday we found a way to win.
“Character, fitness, confidence, togetherness and skill levels were all massive contributors to that but we’re going to have a lot more battles ahead of us this season – that’s just the nature of how competitive the Aviva Premiership is. Some of those in all probability won’t go our way and, while we’ll take the good start, we’re pretty realistic about where we are and what we need to do. We’ve got points in the bag, and let’s kick on now.”
Reflecting on last weekend’s thriller at the Rec as the Falcons led 19-0, trailed 32-19 and then ended up edging a 33-32 victory, Wells said: “I’d love to say we had it in the bag with 15 minutes to go but everyone knows what happened in that middle third, despite starting incredibly well.
“We allowed Bath to play well during that time but it’s a mark of our fitness and discipline that we were able to keep going in such adversity and still believe in what we were doing. We carried on doing the things that had worked for us earlier on in the game, and whether by hook or by crook we ended up winning.”
Confident his side’s form can turn into more than a brief burst, he added: “It’s hard to coach the kind of character that we’ve got in the team at the moment but it’s really pleasing to see the way the boys are battling for one another.
“I still think there’s a lot more to come from this group because we’re developing and pushing through a young core of players who have coped with relegation, promotion and then a difficult couple of first seasons back in the Premiership.
“There’s a mental toughness which has arisen within them through that process, and it hasn’t happened overnight. A lot of those lads are still with the club, and as they’ve grown from 20-year-olds into their mid-20s, they’ve seen a lot. It’s alright me as a coach standing at the front of a room and saying we need leaders, but what I actually need is guys who know what leading looks like because they’ve seen other people doing it. We’re now getting to that point, and guys are standing up during the week to say things that need to be said. That, for me, is the progress we’ve made.”
Tickets for Friday’s 7.45pm kick-off are available by calling 0871 226 6060.
Newcastle Falcons team to face London Irish (Friday, 7.45pm, Kingston Park Stadium, live on BT Sport)
15 Alex Tait
14 DTH van der Merwe
13 Chris Harris
12 Juan Pablo Socino
11 Vereniki Goneva
10 Craig Willis
9 Sonatane Takulua
1 Rob Vickers
2 Santiago Socino
3 Jon Welsh
4 Calum Green
5 Will Witty
6 Mark Wilson
7 Will Welch (captain)
8 Nili Latu
16 Scott Lawson
17 Sami Mavinga
18 Trevor Davison
19 Sean Robinson
20 Ally Hogg
21 Sam Stuart
22 Joel Hodgson
23 Josh Matavesi