The great and good of English rugby came together at Twickenham today for the official launch of the 2013-14 Aviva Premiership season.
And Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards and skipper Will Welch were on hand to face the national and international press as well as posing for the obligatory photos at the home of rugby.
Kicking off the brand new season against Bath next Friday at Kingston Park, Richards is relishing the campaign ahead, saying: “It’s an incredibly competitive and difficult Aviva Premiership. Over those 22 games it’s a marathon.
“It’s consistency throughout the year which is going to be the biggest and most difficult thing because the Aviva Premiership isn’t just about the odd game – that’s one of the most exciting things about it.”
With a string of new signings making the move to the bright lights of Newcastle as well as key players pledging their future to the club, the Falcons boss is pleased with his current squad.
“Looking at the side that we have now, we have a far more balanced side than we’ve had for a little while, and that balance of youth and experience will serve us well.”
Today also saw the launch of a new scrum engagement sequence, aimed at enhancing player welfare by reducing impact on engagement with referees now saying ‘crouch, bind, set.’
Richards said: “It’s been done for the right reasons, for safety reasons so we’re told, and hopefully they will come through.
“There's no secret that the southern hemisphere has had agendas in the past in terms of dealing with the laws.
“You'd like to think that when they've said the changes are for safety reasons, that's the reason they've been made. If it's any other reason you'd be disappointed.”
Going into his fifth campaign with his hometown club, former RGS pupil Welch, 23, can feel a real sense of anticipation in the build-up to the Falcons’ first match back in the big time.
“The launch makes it all real, and the excitement is building,” said Welch, who retains the captaincy for the second year running.
“I captained the club last year in the Championship, and I learned a lot from that experience as it’s a very tough league to get out of.
“There’s a great bunch of guys around me with a lot of experience in there which stands us in good stead for the season ahead,” added Welch.
Reflecting on Richards’ summer acquisitions, Welch said: “We’ve kept the core of our side from last season, and Dean [Richards] has recruited very well in the short space of time that he’s had to strengthen the squad.
“The boys that have come in have added real quality and experience as well so there is a good blend and balance going into the season.”
Tickets are available for next Friday’s game with Bath at Kingston Park by calling the Falcons Ticket Hotline on 0871 226 6060 or click here to purchase online.