Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards is relishing the prospect of taking on the big guns in this season’s Aviva Premiership.
The Falcons begin life in English rugby’s top-flight at home to Bath Rugby on Friday 6 September (kick-off 7.45pm) before back-to-back trips to Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers respectively.
And Richards is keen to hit the ground running when his troops go toe to toe with the West Countrymen led by former Falcons coaching duo Gary Gold and Mike Ford.
“It’s going to be a baptism of fire back in the Aviva Premiership – Bath at home followed by Sale and Leicester away – it doesn’t get much harder than that,” Richards told the gathering media at Thursday’s official fixture launch held at BT Tower in London.
He added: “There are no easy games in the Aviva Premiership though and I’ve told the boys this – Bath at home will be a very good indication of where we are at as a club and where we need to improve during the season if we are going to be competitive.
“It doesn’t matter who you play, it’s more about when you play them – having Bath at home on a Friday night at the start of the season probably plays more into their hands if you look at the squad they possess, but the Premiership can change very quickly..”
Richards, who led his side to promotion back to the Premiership at the first time of asking, insists the Falcons can compete at the highest level.
He said: “I’m not starting the season with a goal in mind, I hope we don’t go down – probably barring the top four or five clubs, everybody has that fear each season.
“It’s such a tough competition and I hope we don’t get sucked into a relegation battle because it’s difficult to escape from.
“I know if we play well as we can do and the new guys that we have brought in gel quickly, hopefully we will have enough to stay up, I’m confident about that.”
Newcastle are now two weeks into a grueling pre-season following a three week break, having achieved their ultimate aim of reaching the Promised Land.
Richards and co will soon switch their attention to the J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s Series, a competition that the northeasterners won when they were last in the Premiership.
The Falcons are in Group B alongside Leicester, Sale and hosts Northampton Saints with the Series Final taking place at the Recreation Ground on Friday 9 August.
Group B will kick-off on Friday 2 August at Franklin’s Gardens, and Richards is looking forward to the challenge.
“The 7s is an important introduction for us into the season at Newcastle Falcons because it’s about utilising the open spaces and that transfers itself into the 15s game,” said the Falcons chief.
“It’s an opportunity for me to look at some of the younger players in the squad and assess who is ready to play in the first team and see how they perform alongside some of my more established players.
“I can’t wait for the J.P. Morgan 7s to begin – it will be great to see some old friends in Dorian West at Northampton and Richard Cockerill at Leicester.
“We have only had three weeks off, we have been back now training hard for a fortnight but that’s the price you pay for relegation and having to go up via the Championship play-offs.
“I’m pleased with who I have brought in, there seems to be a good blend of experience and youth and I think we will have enough this season.
“7s is all about developing players and helping youngsters progress their careers – it’s going to be an important competition for us.”
Season Tickets for 2013-14 are now available, covering every Aviva Premiership game to be played at Kingston Park as well as home fixtures within the knock-out stages of the LV= Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup competitions and any pre-season friendly games to be played at home.
Click here to get your 2013-14 Falcons Season Ticket, call the Falcons 24-hour Ticket Hotline on 0871 226 6060 or visit the Kingston Park Club Shop between 10am and 6pm Monday to Friday or 10am and 4pm on Saturday.