Joel Hodgson sees the European Rugby Challenge Cup as an ideal avenue for Newcastle Falcons to continue their early-season momentum as they prepare to host Cardiff Blues on Friday.
The 8pm kick-off from Kingston Park Stadium is being shown live in the UK on S4C and BT Sport 3 – Hodgson and his team relishing the opportunity to make it four wins from four following their unbeaten start to the Gallagher Premiership.
“Everyone’s happy and excited about the results so far, but the good thing is we know there’s still more to do and lots more we can bring,” said the fly-half, who played the last hour of Saturday’s 27-17 away win at Wasps.
“Friday night is a great chance for us to show a few things against Cardiff Blues, to give opportunities to some players and hopefully continue to build that winning culture.
“The boys have been immense so far, and the team that takes the field on Friday will definitely want to continue that.
“You look at our Premiership team at the moment, and a lot of those guys got their first opportunities in the Challenge Cup when you think of the likes of Adam Radwan and Sean Robinson, to name just a couple. There’s no reason why some of the guys who might be selected on Friday can’t follow the same path, and there’s certainly a lot of talent within the group.
“Cardiff Blues are a quality side who play with skill and aggression, and we’re seeing this as a massive opportunity to beat a good team. Coming to Kingston Park on a Friday night wouldn’t be top of many away teams’ wish list, and it’s about how can we make it as uncomfortable for them as possible.”
Billed as the surprise package by many pundits after their flying start in the league, Hodgson insisted: “I don’t think our form has been a massive shock to the guys within the club.
“One of the upsides about having a much longer pre-season than everyone else has been the fact we’ve been able to tweak a few things, watch what the other Premiership clubs were doing and give ourselves real clarity on what we’re about.
“We always felt like we’d have a good shot at it when we eventually returned, and now the big thing is just bringing consistency in terms of doing it on a regular basis throughout the season.”
Seeing Europe as an avenue by which to continue that progress, the Newcastle native added: “The Challenge Cup is different to the Premiership in many ways – mainly in that you generally know less about your opposition because you don’t see them as often.
“That means there’s a bit more homework to be done during the week and a lot more travelling as well for your away games, so it’s a case of dealing with the unknown.
“It’s an exciting time, and a competition in which players are given opportunities. I know everyone here is really looking forward to it, and it should be a good game on Friday night.”
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