DEAN Richards insists there is no danger of Newcastle Falcons taking their foot off the gas despite entering a fortnight of British and Irish Cup action.
The Pool C leaders had already qualified for the quarter-finals of the competition before being hit by a two-point deduction for fielding cup-tied lock James Goode, and face Irish opposition tomorrow in the form of Connacht Eagles.
The Falcons were 34-3 winners when the two teams met in Athlone back in October, the director of rugby stating: “No, there is no danger of us taking this weekend easily in any way, shape or form.
“Connacht were a typical Irish team when we played them over there, full of enthusiasm and piling into everything.
“I would expect the same when they come over here, and they are a totally different side to our other group opponents in Newport and Cross Keys. Those sides are very street-wise in what they do, whereas the Irish tend to be more eager, throwing their bodies into things.
“That makes it a different kind of challenge for us in coping with that physicality and work rate, but tomorrow is actually nothing to do with the opposition. It is all about getting our style in place.
“It doesn’t matter if the team we are playing are from Ireland, Wales, Scotland or wherever – this is just about ourselves.”
Richards admits his Falcons are some way off top gear after labouring a little in recent weeks, London Scottish and Doncaster working them hard in league action despite battling away at the other end of the table to the runaway league leaders.
“It is not a worry as such, but yes there are frustrations,” he said.
“The players are feeling it, too, which is quite nice, although the main thing is that we are still winning games.”
Beating London Scottish 12-9 before their 28-10 win at bottom club Doncaster, Richards added: “After the home win over London Scottish everyone thought the score was a lot closer than it ought to be, probably including ourselves to be honest, but then they went on and beat our nearest challengers Bedford in their next game.
“That shows they are not a bad side, and I think people tend to forget the quality of some of the teams we are up against in this division.
“Doncaster, too, came out and played as we thought they would. They scored a try which we weren’t happy about but in the end we got the four tries against a side who had not conceded four at home in any game all season, also by the widest margin against them.
“In that respect I was quite happy, but the frustration stemmed from the fact we were not getting into our systems and executing things as well as we had wanted to.” Captain Will Welch will return to tomorrow’s starting line-up for a game which should see the Falcons secure safe passage to the last eight of the competition, their director of rugby keen for his side not to slip into a comfort zone.
Richards said: “Sometimes when you have a situation where wins are coming a little bit more easily you tend to get lackadaisical and relaxed about things, and it doesn’t quite happen for you.
“It then becomes a little bit harder, and while the boys are pretty comfortable at the moment it is still not quite happening how we want it to.” With precision a key ingredient against a youthful Eagles outfit, he added: “Clinical is the word, and that is what we are after.
“We believe we have a style of rugby which suits any competition, but being clean in our execution of that is what we are asking of the players and what they are asking of themselves.”
Meanwhile, Falcons prop Scott Wilson has been named in the revised England Under-20s Elite Player Squad, whose programme opens on February 1 against Scotland in Plymouth.