Mark Wilson believes a Friday night crowd can roar Newcastle Falcons to victory when Gallagher Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs arrive at Kingston Park Stadium.
The 7.45pm kick-off sees the Falcons up against the side who defeated them in last season’s Premiership semi-final, but Wilson and his Falcons were 28-20 winners when the teams last met in Newcastle back in January.
“Friday night games are always the best, as players,” said Wilson, the Falcons academy product who played two tests for England during their summer tour to South Africa.
“I don’t know what it is about playing under lights, but I just love it. The atmosphere is always good, the crowd are really up for it and you get excited by those occasions. Kingston Park on a Friday night is definitely my favourite place to play rugby, and I think a lot of the lads feel the same.”
Getting their Premiership account going for the season with a 23-20 win at Worcester last weekend, Wilson and his side have shown signs of progress after early-season losses to champions Saracens and a rejuvenated Leicester.
The same three fixtures last season saw the Falcons taking four points compared to this season’s haul of five, Wilson saying: “This is what the Gallagher Premiership is now – every squad is strong and every game is tough, but we’ve finally got the ball rolling by beating Worcester.
“Against Saracens we showed plenty during the game but our accuracy at times cost us, and then at Leicester we just didn’t mentally turn up for the first quarter and gave ourselves too big a mountain to climb. Even after that slow start we still scored 33 points including five tries, and then at Worcester we managed to chisel out a win.
“It’s not as if we’re a million miles away, we’ve shown positive aspects in all three games and it’s just about putting them all together for the full 80 minutes.
“People often think you have to play one way to win a game, but the sign of a good side is one that can do it in a variety of fashions. Down at Worcester we played more for territory and kept the scoreboard ticking over, whereas against other sides it will be more about running it. We’re developing that variety, and I think you have to do that at this level.
“We try to look forward rather than ranking everything against what we did last season. We’ve got tough games ahead with Exeter, Wasps, Sale, Toulon and Montpellier, but everything’s just about the next challenge and trying to raise the standards across the board.”
Keen for a repeat of the home victory the Falcons achieved over the Chiefs in January, Wilson added: “We’ve got to take the same mind-set that we did when we played them up here last season.
“Kingston Park isn’t an easy place to come, just as Sandy Park isn’t, and any team that comes up here knows they’re in for a tough challenge. We’ve got the firepower to really shock them like we did last season, and that’s what we’re trying to push.
“The last three games we’ve played have all seen us coming up against tough forward packs, and Friday will be no different.
“Exeter are right up there as one of the best but we’ve proved we can handle the arm-wrestle - it’s more about our accuracy when we get the ball.
“We need to look after it when we have it, because we know if we lose it we’re going to be defending for long periods. I’m confident we can deal with that and dominate that area, and on the back of that make sure we’re ruthless in taking our chances.”
Asked about the prospects of further England honours after showing up well in South Africa in June, the Cumbrian insisted: “The summer tour has left me hungry to kick on and keep fighting for that place.
“As boring as it sounds it’s just about playing well for Newcastle week in, week out, and seeing what happens from there. I won’t worry too much about selection because I can’t control that, but if I take care of the bread and butter up here then I’m in the best position I can be to stake my claim. Yeah, I’ve definitely got the ambition and hunger to get back in there again, but we’ll just see what happens.”
Tickets for Friday’s Gallagher Premiership visit of Exeter Chiefs (7.45pm) are available by clicking here.