Alex Tait says Newcastle Falcons’ home games should be regarded as “non-negotiable” as they prepare to start their 2014 programme with a crucial clash with Sale.
Falcons were a big let-down in their post-Christmas game against London Wasps, scraping a losing bonus point in a tussle targeted as a “must-win” by director of rugby Dean Richards. Tait admits that the players let themselves down in that game and must respond against the Premiership’s most-improved side tonight.
“We have got a point to prove. We were very disappointed with our performance and the result against Wasps,” the homegrown back said.
“We sat down a little while back and set ourselves a five-game target over the last five league games and our home games in that period were non-negotiable. Wasps was one of the games we had targeted and we were disappointed with the way it turned out, especially in the first half when they really dictated the play.
“So we have got a big point to prove because this is the last of the league games before we go to Europe again and we really have to come out and go hell for leather against Sale. We can’t leave anything behind for this game.”
With Falcons on the back of a five-match losing streak, Richards has responded by ringing the changes as his team attempt to pull off their first Premiership double of the campaign.
As well as handing a debut to exciting Samoa international Sinoti Sinoti, Richards has completely revamped his back line – bringing in Mike Blair, Danny Barnes and Adam Powell in a bid to fight fire with North West fire. That is one of six changes, with a surprising recall for Scott MacLeod – who plays his first game since November.
That raft of changes is an indication of Richards’ displeasure with a run that Tait admits has dumped them back in the relegation mix.
“People might look at it and say we’re not in the relegation fight but we have had five defeats on the bounce now,” he said.
“We’re not looking down there but if this form continues we will be down there very soon. All itreally takes is for Worcester to win a couple of games and we’re right there again.
“We really don’t want to be thought of that way anyway. We want to be chasing Gloucester and trying to catch them up rather than being involved in relegation fights, so this is a big, big game for us to set the tone for the year.”
Sale’s form this season has been good enough to lift them away from the relegation troubles that have scarred previous campaigns and is built on solid foundations. Tait sees something to look up to in the North West club.
“They have been really, really good all season – they have had a couple of wins,” he said.
“They have got some good individuals and to me they should act as an inspiration for us. We can look at how Sale are doing and take a bit from that. We want to be up there ourselves and we can do that if we can go again this season then we can progress from there.
“It was a very good result there and looking back, it could prove to be a really important one. It should give us some confidence going into this one.”
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: Alex Tait, Noah Cato, Danny Barnes, Adam Powell, Sinoti Sinoti, Phil Godman, Mike Blair, Rob Vickers, Scott Lawson, Kieran Brookes, Carlo del Fava, Scott MacLeod, Mark Wilson, Andy Saull, Ally Hogg.
Replacements: George McGuigan, Franck Montanella, Oliver Tomaszczyk, Sean Tomes, Richard Mayhew, Warren Fury, Rory Clegg, James Fitzpatrick.