Director of rugby Dean Richards believes his Newcastle Falcons side can continue their flying start to the Aviva Premiership season on Saturday when they take on Saracens in the American city of Philadelphia.
The England and Lions great has presided over four successive league victories, and insists a fifth can be on the cards when they take the field at Talen Energy Stadium, home to Majoe League Soccer team Philadelphia Union.
Richards said: “You look at Sarries’ line-up and there’s no denying they’re a really good team, but we wouldn’t be coming here unless we thought we stood a strong chance of winning. I think we’ve got a far stronger squad this year than we did last year and I genuinely believe we can turn them over.
“Facing Saracens is a great challenge, and if you’re going to come somewhere like this you want to be against the best. Double European champions says it all really and the boys are excited by that challenge. We’ve just got to make sure we take it into the game now because we’ve trained really well all week.”
Having enjoyed a full week in the warm climes of America’s East coast Richards believes the experience of bringing Premiership rugby to the United States is a positive one, saying: “Rugby is growing well over here, and for us as Newcastle Falcons to be in that market is a great opportunity. If you couple that with the business perspective then it’s the right thing to do, and there’s a lot of excitement among the squad about coming over here.
“The trip has been fantastic, the facilities have been outstanding at University of Pennsylvania and we’ve just got to deliver the goods on the field now – that’s the main thing.
“It’s not like a normal game, this. We’ve been together for a week, living in each other’s pockets and really learning about each other. From that side of things it has been great, and we’ve been here all week so the jet lag and what have you has not been a factor.
“Philadelphia is a sports-mad city and we have been loving that side of it. We went to the baseball on Wednesday night, the non-playing members of the group are going to the college American football on Friday night and it’s great to experience it all.”
Happy with his team’s unbeaten start to the league but determined for it not to fizzle out, he added: “Pre-season went really well, we got the kick up the backside we probably needed against Edinburgh and the pleasing thing about our last game at Sale is that a couple of years ago we probably would have panicked and ended up losing. The boys backed themselves late on, executed what they went for at the line-out in the corner and got the result.
“Saracens have put out their strongest side which is a compliment to us, but we believe we have a good chance of winning. It will be a really interesting duel.
“It’s hot and humid over here, and that will be a factor for the players. We have to manage that as a group, and the way we use our bench will be important. It will impact the heavier boys far more than the smaller guys, and we are mindful of that.
“What type of game it is depends on how much dew there is on the field. If it’s a wet ball it makes a big impact, and nobody wants an error-strewn spectacle. The two sides here are of sufficient quality to be able to play through that, and we just want it to be a good event with the right result.”
Tickets for Saturday’s game are available by clicking here, while more than 200 supporters will be at Kingston Park Stadium for a live screening of the event on BT Sport.
PHOTO: Newcastle Falcons and players attending a VIP reception at Philadelphia’s Union League building, in front of a statue of Abraham Lincoln.