Will Welch believes Newcastle Falcons can rise to the challenge of hosting Gallagher Premiership champions Harlequins when the new season gets underway on Sunday at Kingston Park Stadium.
The 3pm kick-off pits the Falcons against the side they defeated 25-22 when they last met in the North East back in February – Quins going on to lift the league title in July after a strong climax to the campaign.
“If we can get close to that performance level at the weekend then we’re in with a shout, and we’ve got the players to do it,” said Welch, the back-row forward who has played 252 games in 14 seasons with his home town club.
“We’ve obviously got a few ex-Harlequins guys in our squad who know first-hand what they’re about, but we’ve played against them a lot and I think most people will have a feel for what they try to do.
“The forecast looks OK from a weather point of view so I’m sure they’re going to come up here and play the way they like to play, and they’ll have that offload mind-set.
“For us, we have a good understanding of what makes us tick, what allows us to win and how we can be a successful team.
“It’s about nailing our basics with a real work-rate and intent, and that’s what we pride ourselves on.”
Benefiting from a more compact summer schedule, the abrasive flanker said: “Pre-season has been a lot shorter this year compared to what we had last season, which I think helps.
“It’s been around six weeks or so of training before we were back into the games, and the boys have come back in good nick to be fair to them.”
An unbeaten pre-season has seen the Falcons winning away at Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as beating Doncaster at home – Welch and his team-mates looking to repeat the kind of start which saw them winning their first three league games last season.
He said: “We got off to a great start last by beating Bath, Sale and Wasps, then had a bit of a blip in the middle, partly due to injuries and a bit of Covid stuff, but we picked up again towards the end.
“As any team will say it’s about consistency, because when we’ve got guys fit and we’re playing the game our way, we’re capable of beating anyone.”
Asked about Harlequins’ expansive playing style, Welch said: “Some players enjoy playing a certain way and some will enjoy a different style, so I don’t think it’s right to say there’s one straight answer across the board.
“Quins have a playing style which is pretty much their DNA, they have players who are used to playing that way and they train for it every day, whereas you take a club like Saracens – they’ve been very successful by having a much more pragmatic way of doing things.
“It’s a case of which shoe fits which foot in terms of the players you’ve got within your squad, and what sort of club you are.
“When it gets to December time with a slow pitch and a wet ball I’m not sure how easy it would be to play that kind of open game, but on a hard track and with a dry ball they’ve shown what they can do.”
Tickets for Sunday’s game are available by clicking here.