Anticipation high for the visit of Siberian side Enisei STM this Sunday
Newcastle Falcons’ Craig Willis turned in another good performance in last week’s opening round of the European Rugby Challenge Cup and is excited by the challenge posed to the club by this weekend’s game.
The Falcons take on Enisei STM on Sunday (KO 3pm) with the Russian newcomers representing a brand new prospect for the Kingston Park club, with Willis stating that this provides an opportunity to focus more closely at matters within the camp.
“A Russian team that we’ve never played before is a pretty new quantity, but it will be for them too and that’s when you can focus on yourselves rather than the opposition. “
“That’s good because it’s good to work on the things you need to work on rather than worry about the opposition, which gives us a chance to express ourselves a bit more too.”
“I expect them to be a relatively physical side with big players around the field. I know they’ll probably come at us with a bit of physical intent, similar to the Georgians we played in pre-season, so we’ll be challenged all around the park and I think they’ll have some pretty good athletes.”
“It’s up to us to be focused on ourselves and make sure we handle them in our area really. They will have had a nice long trip that will have been tough for them! You get a lot of energy from playing in a new competition against new teams though so I think they’ll throw everything at us.”
Retaking to the field for the club for the first time since the Kings of the North Cup back in September, Willis returned to the fullback berth against Brive that he took against Georgia in pre season and enjoyed the additional freedoms it offered.
“It was the first time I played fullback since the Georgia game and actually the first time I’d played in a few weeks so it was a bit different but I enjoyed it.”
“It takes a bit of a mindset change because at 15. There’s a bit more pressure on your game at Fly Half, where you’re in the front line and are expected to call all of the shots. At 15 you get a lot more of a chance to sort of pick and choose what you do.”
“You know how the game’s going from 15 and where your opportunities are going to be, so when you do get your chance it’s often in quite loose and in open play so there’s more of an opportunity to show more of a running game.”
Narrowly losing to the side who currently sit fifth in France’s Top 14, a potentially crucial bonus point was brought back from the game in Brive, along with, for Willis a performance that picked up from his summer showings.
“I felt as if it went pretty strongly for me personally, I felt a bit rusty at times but it was a good game to come back into because it was quite open with opportunities to show what you can do.”
“Going in we had quite a big emphasis on us being enthusiastic and showing a bit dog on our performance. There are things to work on with our clinical edge as at the end of the game we probably could’ve put it to bed, but I think we showed quite a bit in combinations that maybe haven’t been playing together recently.”
Regardless of the overall result, another start marks another step for the 20 year olds’ towards achieving his ambitions within the game and an approach to a junction where his own goals for the year require a re-evaluation.
“At the start of the season, I was thinking that I wanted to take my chances and show what I can do on the pitch a bit more. I feel like I’ve done that now to a certain extent, but there’s still that step up to make. If I can get myself some Premiership opportunities, that’s when people will start to think more about me as a player.”
Tickets for the game are still available, priced at £10 for adults and £5 for Under 16s in all areas in the stadium and can be bought by clicking here calling 0871 2266060 or visiting the Kingston Park Box Office.