New arrival Andy Saull has tipped Newcastle Falcons to defy the doubters who are already forecasting a season of toil in their Aviva Premiership return.
Odds for the bottom of the league will not be published until early August, but one leading bookmaker has revealed if they were to open the market today Newcastle would be the favourites to finish the season propping up the other 11 clubs.
Paddypower.com have stated they would price the Falcons at 11/10 to end up in the relegation spot, albeit with the caveat the market could still be swayed by future signings.
Such doom-mongering is of no concern to Saull, the former Saracens and England Saxons flanker (pictured right) whose arrival represents a considerable coup for the RFU Championship winners. “We have the ability to shock people,” said the 24-year-old, who has moved north in a two-year deal.
“I still don’t think the guys up here fully realise what the value of a squad can achieve.
“You don’t need superstars, and you don’t need big names.
“You just need everyone pulling in the same direction and buying into what the club is trying to do.”
That seems to chime with a transfer policy which has seen director of rugby Dean Richards building a solid base rather than blowing the budget one or two global names – somewhat of a cultural shift for a club which has allocated a hefty percentage of its outlay on a small number of box-office players for much of the past decade.
Saull added: “If you look at Exeter, they came up from the Championship three years ago and finished eighth, followed by the last two seasons in the top half of the table.
“They stuck to what they were good at, they bought into a gameplan and went at it 100% every single week.
“There is no doubting the fact there is the quality at the Falcons now for us to go and do the same. It is just whether or not you can get everyone singing from that same hymn sheet.
“Do that from day one and there will be upsets, and once you have four or five wins under your belt the whole buzz starts to build around you.
“Belief is the biggest thing in rugby, and if you have that belief you are a good side who are going to win games then you will start scraping victories in matches you shouldn’t be winning.
“That is when you know you are doing well, and with the players we have got here, the coaches we have and the whole region behind us – there is no reason why we can’t do it.” Meanwhile, Westoe are aiming to bounce back from last season’s relegation out of National Two North.
The Shieldsmen have formalised their coaching set-up for life in National Three North, Samoan World Cup star Lome Fa’atau taking charge of the backs and flanker Scott Powell the forwards - Mark Bedworth having departed for Durham City.
Both Fa’atau and Powell will work under director of rugby Andy Howells, the Welshman who is backing the Wood Terrace club to emerge strongly despite dropping down a division. Howells said: “We have been training three nights a week and have been getting more than 50 players down.
“The majority are homegrown lads who have come through our system, and despite being relegated we have not lost many.
“We have brought in Peter Dent from Durham City, Andy Lawson from Darlington and Blaydon’s Gareth Henderson.
“Chris Clark has re-joined us from Northern, but the emphasis is on promoting from within.”