Newcastle Falcons flanker Will Welch says the first 20 minutes will be crucial against Cornish Pirates on Sunday when his team makes the Greene King IPA Championship trip to Penzance.
The 2.30pm kick-off at the Mennaye Field sees the top two teams in the division putting their unbeaten records on the line, Welch’s Falcons five from five in all competitions after winning all three of their Championship Cup games.
“Their crowd will be right up for it, the first 20 minutes will set the tone for the game and we need to try and take that away from them,” said Welch, the 29-year-old who has played 228 senior games for the Falcons.
“The way you do that is by being quite controlled about what you’re doing - don’t give them the energy that will feed into the crowd and try to force them into errors through defensive pressure.
“If we all perform our individual roles and come together as a team then we’ll back ourselves to beat anybody, but we know we’ll need to be at our best to get the job done.”
Paying full respect to a Pirates side who have beaten Ealing at home and Doncaster away, the Newcastle native added: “Pirates away is notoriously one of the toughest games on the Championship fixture list.
“They’ve been known down the years for their big pack but they now have a back line to go along with it, and they’ve had a good start. I’d expect them to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season, so being able to knock them off away from home would be a great boost for us.
“They seem to have a good balance to their squad, they’ve got a good set of half-backs and they can play rugby out wide as well as the tighter forward stuff that people historically know them for. They beat Ealing on the first day which was a decent scalp for them, and by a good amount, so that just gives you an idea of what kind of challenge it is for us.”
Finding plenty of room for improvement despite his team being undefeated in all competitions this season, Welch said: “We’ve been getting the wins so in that sense things are OK, but everyone here would be honest enough to say there’s a huge amount more to come from a performance perspective.
“We’ve not quite hit our straps yet for whatever reason, and Cornish Pirates away will be a great test for us. We’ll have to be at our best to get anything down there because they’re a good side and it will be a big atmosphere, and we’ll have to raise our levels quite a bit.
“People can look at our results and assume everything’s fine, but we’re honest enough to judge ourselves on performances rather that points. In that sense we have plenty of room for improvement, and we don’t feel as if our record of five wins from five really reflects how we’ve played.
“We’re determined to set and maintain Premiership standards across the whole season, both with and without the ball, and Cornish Pirates away is the kind of game where that benchmark is really going to be tested.”
From a personal perspective Welch returned to the fold for last Friday’s 45-7 home win over Hartpury, having injured himself during the season-opening away victory against Jersey.
“Last weekend was my first game for a month so I felt it on the lungs a little bit, but it was great to blow away those cobwebs,” he said.
“Hopefully I can get a run of games together now, which is obviously not easy with the huge competition we have in the back row.”