Dean Richards says stable selection policy can aid Newcastle Falcons

Director of rugby finally seeing his main men on the field as Falcons look for consistency in personnel

Newcastle Falcons boss Dean Richards
Newcastle Falcons boss Dean Richards

Dean Richards believes stability in selection can put Newcastle Falcons on an upward trajectory.

The Kingston Park club took a losing bonus point from title hopefuls Harlequins last weekend, and on Sunday play host to Premiership leaders Northampton Saints.

They do so without Samoan wing Sinoti Sinoti, who has been ruled out for four to six weeks with an ankle injury, but Richards is relieved things seem to be calming down elsewhere on the field.

The director of rugby said: “It is nice to have a pretty stable back-line.

“There has been a lot of swapping and changes because of injury and whatever else over the last six to eight months.

“As a consequence of that we have not been able to put out the same back line for any more than one or two weeks on the trot, which does disrupt you.

“The continuity from that side of things is important, and it shows as well.”

Richards is without Scotland hooker Scott Lawson and England Under-20s pair Scott Wilson and Zach Kibirige due to international commitments, although Sunday’s visitors are much harder hit by Six Nations call-ups.

Five of their number are on England duty against Ireland tomorrow as Luther Burrell, Courtney Lawes, Lee Dickson, Tom Wood and Dylan Hartley line up at Twickenham, Welshman George North also absent.

The East Midlands giants could be bolstered by the potential return of England full-back Ben Foden from injury, the sheer depth of their squad seeing experienced Samoan international scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i and American lock Samo Manoa among those set to step in.

“Northampton have quality all the way through, and even when their internationals are away they have top players to come in and do the job,” said Richards. “You only have to look at Northampton’s squad and the strength in depth that they have to understand it won’t just be one facet of the game they are effective in.

“It will be right across the board, and we will have to be on our game in every department to be able to meet that challenge.”

One area in which Newcastle have shown marked improvement is in the centres, where Argentina international Gonzalo Tiesi and Samoan Jamie Helleur seem to have struck up a natural partnership.

The battering-ram qualities of Helleur and Tiesi’s ability to pick a supporting line caused repeated line-breaks at Harleins last weekend, Richards stating: “They are both quality players, and we still have injuries to guys like James Fitzpatrick. We do have these quality boys in and around the squad and, as they are starting to come back and play, you can see it makes a difference.

“In terms of Jamie and Gonzo they work well together, and they complement each other.

“Looking at the bigger picture you need to have the ball to start with, and then the distribution capability to get the ball wide. It is just starting to click, and the boys have done well.

“We have got to keep on this road now, and make sure we don’t veer off it.”

Keen to sharpen up on last weekend’s result after leading with 10 minutes to spare, the former England and Lions No 8 added: “I was disappointed, obviously, but you have to put it behind you and start looking to the next game.

“There were positives that came out of it and we scored a lovely try, probably missed out on others, and I thought we played really well.

“We didn’t get the rub of the green from the referee’s perspective, and you always want that consistency from the officials. It wasn’t the deciding factor in terms of the result, and we will look at our own performance going into the Northampton game.

“By the end of this block we will have played four of the Premiership’s top five back-to-back inside a month, and two matches into that we have acquitted ourselves well.”

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