Gary Graham insists Friday’s Heineken Champions Cup visit of Toulon is no dead rubber as Newcastle Falcons look to play their way back into form.
The 7.45pm kick-off at Kingston Park Stadium is the last match of the group phase, and while neither side harbours quarter-final ambitions the evening offers the Falcons the ideal chance to set themselves on an upward curve going into the back end of the campaign.
“The big focus this week is doing the double over the three-time European champions, and we’re looking at it as a really important game,” said Graham, the back-row forward who was this week called into Scotland’s Six Nations training squad.
“It’s a chance to put right some of the things that went wrong last weekend, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about that during the week and we’re certainly not approaching Toulon as a dead rubber.”
The French club have included most of their big hitters in their 26-man travelling party, Newcastle having enjoyed a 26-25 triumph when the two teams met on the French Riviera back in October.
Victories since then have proved harder to come by, Graham insisting the squad are fully focused on improving their fortunes following last weekend’s loss in Montpellier.
“Montpellier are a very well-organised team with a lot of big names, and it showed,” he said.
“We let ourselves down on the day if we’re totally honest about it, but the good thing about rugby is that you have an opportunity the following weekend to go out and put it right.
“If you go into a game thinking you’re going to lose then I don’t think you’re in the right frame of mind, and you shouldn’t be out there. We certainly weren’t thinking like that last weekend, but we just weren’t where we needed to be in terms of mind-set. We should have been running out there and firing into them, but we weren’t at the races. It’s in the past now, though, and we’ll kick on against Toulon.
“We’ll make no bones about the fact that we’re not showing our best at the moment, and we’re not scraping the wins we were last season.
“We’re struggling, if we’re brutally honest, but we’ve got the quality and the mind-set to pull that round and get some momentum back into our season. We’ll be going all-out to beat Toulon, to take that into the Premiership Cup game at Sale and then back into the Premiership when that eventually rolls around in the middle of next month.”
Tickets for Friday’s home game against Toulon are available by clicking here.