Top-tier European rugby returns to Kingston Park Stadium for the first time in 14 years on Sunday October 21 when French giants Montpellier visit Newcastle Falcons in the Heineken Champions Cup.
The 1pm kick-off marks the Falcons’ long-awaited return to the elite level of European club rugby thanks to last season’s fourth-placed Premiership finish, director of rugby Dean Richards licking his lips at the prospect of playing in a competition which is close to his heart.
The former England and Lions No 8 played in the 1997 final for Leicester and then coached the Tigers to glory in 2001 and 2002, saying: “It’s the world’s best club competition and everyone associated with Newcastle Falcons is looking forward to stepping up.
“There’s an excitement around being exposed to different top-end rugby cultures and having new experiences, it’s brilliant for our supporters to be a part of that and likewise for the players. In the last few years we’ve played games in Georgia, Russia, the USA, France, Romania and a number of others, and that’s the beauty of our sport.
“We’ve not been in the Champions Cup for well over a decade now, and out of our registered squad for the tournament I think there are only five or six who have even played in it during their time with other clubs.
“As a consequence we’ve probably got the least amount of experience out of the English teams in the competition, but in a way that puts us in a better position because we’re used to travelling further afield to places like Russia and Georgia, so the travelling doesn’t bother us. Getting out there and playing our game is key, and we’ve got nothing to lose. We’ll just give it our all and see what happens.”
In the season that the European finals are held at Newcastle’s St James’ Park the Falcons find themselves in a mouth-watering pool with Toulon, Montpellier and Edinburgh, Richards’ men kicking off their campaign in Toulon on Sunday October 14 before welcoming Montpellier on Sunday October 21.
“Our pool has a great mix when you think of the European pedigree of Toulon, a very strong Montpellier squad who made last season’s French final and then an improving Edinburgh side up the road adding more of a local angle to it,” said the Newcastle boss.
“The intensity in the Champions Cup is massive, and you’re pitting your wits against the best on the continent. You’ve got to be right on the money to come out on top, but it’s great to test yourself in those kinds of scenarios.
“I’m sure our supporters will be right behind us, and having done the hard work of qualifying we’re keen to make the most of this opportunity.”
Tickets for Newcastle Falcons v Montpellier can be bought by clicking here.