Toby Flood says aggression in defence and a cast iron discipline will be at the heart of victory for Newcastle Falcons at Bristol this afternoon.
The Falcons travel to Ashton Gate intent on hauling themselves away from the bottom of the Gallagher Premiership, Flood signalling their intentions as they line up against the team who make the fewest kicks and the most passes in the division.
“We’ve got to start well and manage what Bristol are doing, and it’s important that we’re aggressive in how we defend rather than just allowing them to run at us,” said Flood, whose side were narrowly beaten by a late penalty at home to Gloucester a week ago.
“Any team coached by Pat Lam is one that really wants to run around and play, and he’s someone who encourages his players to take risks. They’re a bit similar to Gloucester in that respect, and so playing Gloucester last weekend is probably the best preparation we could have had.
“People talk about discipline, and a lot of that is around making good decisions under fatigue rather than anything to do with the laws or the officials.
“We felt we were on the wrong side of a few key decisions last weekend, which is frustrating in a game which is decided by one late penalty, but at the same time the onus is on us as players to make sure that one decision can’t sway the result against us.”
Confident that his side are not too far away having won two of their last three league games, the 60-times-capped fly-half said: “There are games that we were winning last year where we just don’t seem to be getting the rub of the green, but it hasn’t affected the guys’ confidence in the way you might expect it to.
“It’s a horrible cliché but you can’t affect things which have already happened, so it’s just about managing the disappointment levels and cracking on.
“Bristol is clearly an important game but you don’t want to make it into a cup semi-final or final, and it’s not a case of lose on Sunday and you’re out.
“We’ve been at the bottom of the league for a little while now but we’ve always known we’re two results away from being in the top half, so we’re not overly worried.
“The longer you’re down there the more it frustrates and irritates you, especially when you’re winning for the majority of the game against a good Gloucester side but you lose it at the death. Likewise against Wasps earlier this season, but we do know Sunday is a big game and we’re looking forward to it.”
With a bumper home gate set to greet the two teams at Ashton Gate, Flood said: “It’ll be a big crowd down there and a great atmosphere, which our guys will love.
“I’ve been fortunate in my career to have played in front of some decent gates, and it’ll be bouncing down there. It’s a real opportunity for us to get buzzed up and excited about the whole thing, and we’ll be using that atmosphere as a catalyst for our performance.”