Chris Pilgrim is hopeful Newcastle Falcons can take their Premiership form into the European arena, as they make the trip to Romania.
The former Nottingham scrum-half is in line to make his first start of the season tomorrow when the RFU Championship winners head to Bucharest, facing a Wolves side made up of the top Romanian-based players from the country’s domestic club competition.
Having missed most of last season through a serious knee ligament injury the 27-year-old is now back to full fitness, but has found game-time hard to come by as Scottish veteran Mike Blair and Welshman Warren Fury share the No 9 shirt.
“It is a big opportunity for guys like myself, who have not had as much involvement as I would have liked,” said Pilgrim, who will form part of a side expected to see significant changes from the one which won at Worcester last weekend.
A fair chunk of that is down to injury, French prop Franck Montanella having had an operation on a knee cartilage injury which will keep him out for the best part of a month.
Captain Will Welch’s shoulder knock is only expected to be short term, while Blair, Carlo del Fava and Ally Hogg are among the number missing out with niggles.
Facing a fortnight of European action with trips to Romania and France, Pilgrim said: “Some people might see it as a break from the Premiership, but I am taking it as a chance to put a really big performance in.
“In a way it is a bit of a trip into the unknown, because with Bucharest being a side made up from all different clubs, it is not like there is a lot of information available to us about them. I have watched one of their games against Bath from last season, and it has been quite a good exercise having not known much about our opponents. To a large extent we will be concentrating on ourselves and trying to impart our own philosophy on the game, trying to take it to them.”
Satisfied by their league season so far, up to a point anyway, Pilgrim said: “Having eight points on the board at this time of year is always nice, and to a certain extent we are happy.
“Within that there is the disappointment of our home form, and especially the game against Gloucester in which we did not follow through on a very good start.” Taking the gradual view rather than putting a specific place on their end-goal this season, he added: “I don’t think we have a number in our head, and the thing we always talk about is just getting the processes right, the processes of making us a better team.
“I don’t even think about winning games when I am on the pitch, because I am focused on doing the right things within that game.
“The outcome of that, as we saw at Worcester, was that we executed what we said we would, and the outcome was that we got the win.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle’s Kingston Park ground will host international action next year when England Under-20s host Wales Under-20s in the age-group equivalent of the Six Nations Championship.
The two teams will meet at the home of the Falcons on the evening of Friday, March 7 in a repeat of the Under-20s World Cup final, which was won by an England side containing Falcons forwards Scott Wilson and Dom Barrow.
Barrow said: “England versus Wales games are always fiery, physical encounters and it promises to be a great night. I have got fond memories of my time in the England Under 20s set-up, particularly the feeling when we became world champions.”