Director of Rugby gives his thoughts ahead of the Falcons game against Bath this Saturday.
As the Falcons name a side with just one change heading into Saturday’s game against Bath, Director of Rugby Dean Richards said the selection was more about playing the opposition that about finding a side that will remain unchanged throughout the season.
“It’s always nice to be able to pick the same side week in week out when you get into your style and, but you can never do that because it has to be a horses for courses situation and you have to look after people.
“At this time of the year when the season is pretty fragmented it does make it difficult to pick the same side each week but if we can minimise changes we will, purely from a perspective of everybody understanding their roles and getting into the swing of things.”
The single change to the Falcons’ starting XV is in the form of Argentine Centre Juan Pablo Socino, who comes in in place of countryman Belisario Agulla. Speaking of the change, Richards explained:
“Beli is very unfortunate that he’s been dropped but it really is a case of horses for courses and he understands that. Juan carries the ball extremely well and defensively he’s sound. And since Charris can play either 12 or 13 it gives us that opportunity there too.
“Bringing Juan in also gives him an opportunity. He came back from the World Cup probably not on top of his game but he’s had a couple of weeks to get back into the swing of things, and as he showed in the last A League game, and then again in his cameo performance at the weekend he’s back into the groove and we’re more than happy for him to start.”
One notable continuation in the Falcons side is at Fly Half, Craig Wills retaining the jersey despite the arrival of veteran 10 Andy Goode earlier this week.
“We hold high hopes for Craig and for TC too, and we’re looking to give him as much experience as we can. Not only that but he’s gained the right to start too through his recent performances and we’re really pleased for him because of that.
“Andy came in because we’re short on numbers and he will feature at some stage, but don’t forget we’ve got that ten week block coming up which will be a critical part of the season, and we want to have all three ready to go during that time.”
Elsewhere on the field the Falcons’ pack remains completely unchanged from that which proved dominant at Welford Road last Saturday.
“Our forwards played extremely well last weekend and I thought that we were more than competitive against Leicester. I thought our forwards got the better of a really good Leicester team.
“Our lack of experience and probably a bit of naivety with young lads in key positions meant that when we needed to do certain things to keep them under pressure we didn’t do that but we’ll learn from that and are learning from it.”
Once again this week Mark Wilson will vacate his usual spot on the flanks to step into the engine room of the Falcons’ scrum alongside Sean Robinson. And although many raised eyebrows at the selection last weekend, Richards believes it to be a less than surprising move.
“A lot of teams put back rows in the second row – Garvey for Bath being one of them – so it’s nothing unusual at all. it gives you that little bit more mobility and probably that bit more footballing ability too which we like.
“We think very highly of Wils here and believe that he’ll go a long way. But the reason we think so highly of him is that he has a massive engine and some good footballing skills. So to have that ability and to have an extra back row player on the field is probably a benefit that we can’t do without.”
Ahead of Wilson, veteran front row Bobby Vickers will make his 193rd appearance for the club after playing in every Falcons league game of 2015.
“Bobby is loving his rugby, really enjoying it and enjoying his time here. He loves the club, the crowd, the arena, the pitch and just wants to get out there and play.
“He’s in his twilight years as he knows, and we know that too, so we’re looking after him. But for us it’s about turning him out for the important games, and for us that’s the Premiership.
“When he does turn out he plays really well as you saw last week against Leicester; it didn’t matter whether it was Fraser Balmain or Dan Cole who came on, he dominated that left hand side of the scrum and did really well.”
On the other side of the Falcons scrum a name less familiar to fans will be replacement Paddy Ryan, in line to make his first club appearance should he come off the bench on Saturday after impressing in the recent A League fixture against Sale Jets.
“Paddy was a bit of a wild card for me initially, but having watched him playing for Libourne last year on a few occasions and sat down with Micky to look at him we know that he’s got a little bit of grunt in him, it was just about how and where he channels that.
“For us it was important that he work with us on that because you can always channel your efforts in the wrong direction and he’s worked really hard. People have to appreciate he’s still very new to this level of rugby but we’ve been really pleased with his efforts so far and how he’s adapting to it. And if he gets on on Saturday I’d be delighted for him.
“Paddy loves scrummaging and for a Tighthead Prop that’s one of the first things you look for. You know he’ll put everything into his scrums and whatever happens around the park he’s got this Irishman’s mentality of just being an absolute nuisance, and I don’t mind that at all!”
Newcastle’s opposition for Saturday however, are likely to include a number of well-known names as Bath bring their expected star-studded squad to Kingston Park Stadium. Speaking of his team’s next opponents, Richards said:
“Bath are a good side who play an expansive game of rugby and have a back through who have a pretty good counter attack and who, when they’re on song, can break tackles all day long.
“Their announcement of signing Mafi until the end of the year is mind boggling in some respects when you look at what sort of quality they have, but I think they’ve set their minds on winning the European Cup, and that’s obviously what they want to do.
“That’ll be a big challenge for them because they’ll have to win their next two games. So yes they want to beat us on Saturday, but I think they also have an eye on the following week as well.”
However Richards admits that Bath will still provide a stern challenge to his squad.
“Our pitch suits their back line very much as they plan an expansive game and like to run, it will suit their forwards less so though.
“They have a side which is more akin to French rugby than most English sides – big powerful strong forwards and a quick backline. We’re slightly different in that we have a slightly smaller pack, but a far more mobile pack. And with Wils going in the second row it does make a difference to us.”
Saturday’s game against Bath kicks off at 3pm at Kingston Park Stadium, with tickets available to buy now online, in person from the Kingston Park Stadium Box Office or by calling the club’s 24 hour Ticket Hotline on 0871 226 6060, starting from £15 for adults and £7.50 for juniors.