John Hardie believes Newcastle Falcons will need to maintain a consistent mental focus if they are to earn promotion from this season’s Greene King IPA Championship.
The Falcons get their league season underway at London Scottish on Saturday after winning all three of their Championship Cup games, beating Jersey (8-21), Doncaster (57-0) and Hartpury (14-52).
“It’s a mental challenge for us in many ways this season because every team is going to be well up for it when they play the Falcons, and our card is marked in that respect,” said Hardie, the flanker who has played international rugby for Scotland.
“That’s especially true when we go away from home because teams will be sensing a scalp there for the taking, and it requires a really high level of focus from us to stick to our plan. It falls to the players and the staff to make sure we’re all in the right frame of mind every week, and that things stay nice and fresh.”
Using their cup games to build up a head of steam moving into the Championship proper, Hardie said: “I certainly can’t fault the club so far because training has been great and we’ve backed that up with results, but obviously there will be areas where we can improve.
“It’s always good to score a few tries and to get your systems into play, but we know we have to keep to a really high standard every week.
“We can’t let teams get into games and we need to start strongly, which is probably the biggest lesson to take on board from last weekend at Hartpury. If we stick to our processes and what we do well then we should be okay, but it requires a lot of concentration.
“Of course we need to respect our opposition, but not to the point where it dictates how we play our game. If we execute the things we know we can do well, then we’ll back ourselves against anyone.”
Having put in a deft grubber kick to Alex Tait for one of eight Newcastle tries last weekend, the open-side reflected: “It was nice to put in a wee left-footer down to Taity, and I think it would have broken me if it didn’t come off!
“We started pretty poorly in the first 20 minutes which is a real work-on for us, but we managed to get things together before half-time and the added a couple more tries just after half-time.
“Our squad is really fit this year, we’ll back ourselves over 80 minutes and we’ve got plenty of fuel in the tank. It’s just about keeping our patience, keeping our defensive shape and really getting up for it.
“In terms of this weekend, London Scottish have some good loose forwards, and Mark Bright is a big player for them if he’s involved. They have experienced guys there who can cause us problems if we’re not at it, and we have to respect them.”