Stability and evolution on Dean Richards' wish list for Falcons

Newcastle Falcons are aiming to end the days of mass change among the playing squad, says boss Dean Richards

Newcastle Falcons boss Dean Richards
Newcastle Falcons boss Dean Richards

Dean Richards has made more changes to Newcastle Falcons’ squad than he would have liked to, but insists the days of annual upheaval are over.

The director of rugby has confirmed 10 senior summer signings to date, a relatively small number for a club accustomed to mass turnover of manpower for much of the past decade.

Stability during that period has been in short supply, but consistency for Richards and selective recruitment hold the key to slow and steady growth.

“There has been a large number of changes,” said the former Leicester and Harlequins boss, when asked whether a comparatively low-key summer of wheeling and dealing had set them fair for the big kick-off against Bath on Friday.

“I like to get a club into a position whereby there are only four or five changes in the playing staff every season, and this summer we have been running into double figures.

“Going much more than that number is unheard of, for me, and just means more and more tinkering each year.

“This year the turnover was probably larger than I would have wanted, and the more we have good academy boys coming through then the less need there will be to bring guys in from outside.”

Headlining the influx are Scottish internationals Scott Lawson, Mike Blair and Phil Godman, while former French international Franck Montanella and England Saxons flanker Andy Saull are among the others adding top-flight know-how.

“Losing Rory Lawson and Jimmy Gopperth obviously denies us a lot of experience, but Mike coming in at scrum-half offsets that,” said the director of rugby.

“In terms of fly-half the experience of Godman and younger guys like Rory Clegg and Joel Hodgson means we have options to choose from, we are adequately covered there.”

Spreading the budget around the field rather than devoting huge percentages to the odd global name, Richards said: “Your Jonny Wilkinsons or whatever – why not?

“You can bring in one or two of those guys, provided you apportion your money accordingly.

“Guys of that quality always have a place, but you have to make sure the balance of your squad is spread across the board, rather than in just one or two areas.”

Aiming to stick around in the Aviva Premiership and build from season to season, attracting the right talent to the club remains a central strand of the strategy.

“Once you get up there it is how you stay up there, and you are constantly asking yourself if you are doing the right thing – not just on a yearly basis, but every single week,” said Richards.

“That could be did we pick the right side or did we train as well as we could, but it all goes towards the same objective.

“We want this to be a club where people aspire to come and play, and where they feel they can achieve their ambitions by being. If you sit there and rest on your laurels, at some stage you will tread water and people will pass you by.”

Playing down comparisons between the current Falcons crop and the Harlequins squad with which he was promoted, he said: “There are similarities which get brought up about Harlequins coming into the Premiership, but they have evolved since then and since I have been away from the club. I am different now myself, too. I have seen a reasonable amount since then, and developed as a result.”

Meanwhile, Falcons winger Zach Kibirige and prop-forward Scott Wilson have been named in the England Under-20s squad for the coming season. Kibirige steps up from the Under-18s, while Wilson retains his place as a member of the squad which won last season’s Under-20s World Cup final in France.

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