Sean Robinson believes Newcastle Falcons’ momentum can continue to grow on Saturday when they travel to Bordeaux-Begles in European Challenge Cup action.
The lock-forward and his side began the competition with a 32-27 home win over Welsh side Dragons in round one and, off the back of an encouraging start in the Aviva Premiership, Robinson sees this weekend’s French excursion as an opportunity to maintain their head of steam.
“We’ve made a good start to the Aviva Premiership which is really pleasing on the back of all the hard work we put in during pre-season, and it seems to be paying off,” said the Durham University graduate.
“We’ve put in a decent six league games with four wins a bonus point in defeat, and started with a bonus point win in Europe, so you’d have to be happy with that.
“It’s quite hard to put your finger on a single reason for the improvement and it’s not as if we’ve been doing things drastically differently. It has just been building slowly for a few years and we have been getting a little bit better each season, but it’s only when those narrow wins are turned into narrow victories that people on the outside take notice. We’ve been getting more and more competitive and the squad is getting stronger, and those two or three years of small progress are paying off.
“It’s a positive start but we’re conscious a start is all it is, and we’re being down-to-earth about things. We’re just working hard every day in training and trying to continue our momentum, and if we want to push on as a team that’s the way we should be doing it. We want to be in the top six or the top four in the league and we want to make the knock-out rounds in Europe, but those things are achieved by building week on week rather than sitting back and reflecting on the fact we won a few games at the start of a season.”
Finding plenty of room for improvement on last weekend’s victory over Dragons, Robinson said: “It was a bonus point win and we did lots of good things in the game so it was a positive start in that sense, but at the same time there was a lot we weren’t happy with and a few key areas where we feel we need to get better going into this weekend.
“It was mainly small things in tweaking a bit of detail, and then accuracy in terms of how we execute that detail, but if we continue to put those things right we will put in a really strong performance over in Bordeaux.
“It’s massively positive when you think we achieved a bonus point win despite having so much room for improvement, and it indicates where the playing group, coaching staff and the club in general are at the moment. We’re capable of sneaking a victory even when we’re not at our best, and that in itself is progress.
“The focus has been mainly on ourselves and performing to the best of our ability rather than worrying too much about the opposition. Obviously we do our analysis on them as any team should, but we’re a tough side to play against and we believe we can beat anyone if we get our game right. We can easily slip up if we’re not at our best, and for that reason we’re focusing on the real detail of our own preparation and maintaining that full mental focus.”
Aware of the challenge which awaits his side at Stade Chaban-Delmas against a Bordeaux side with five wins from seven in the French league, and a bonus point win in last week’s European opener at Enisei-STM, the lock added: “Bordeaux have been going very well in the Top 14 so we know this will be a big test for us, and they had a good win in Siberia last weekend to go top of the group.
“They’re a very strong outfit and they beat an Enisei side who have achieved some good results at home over the past couple of seasons, so we know we have to be focused.
“Playing over in France is always a great experience and, as a forward, you know what you’re going to get. They’re going to be intense, physical, they’ll compete hard at the breakdown and the crowd will get involved. For us as a pack it’s about matching that intensity, beating them in the physical exchanges and setting a platform for our backs.
“If we manage to achieve that and to play smart rugby we have the firepower to score lots of tries, but they’re going to be flying into us, and it’s how we deal with that which will define the outcome.”