Dean Richards has brushed off any attempts to characterise Newcastle Falcons as exponents of negative rugby.
Renowned as a tight, grinding forward during a hugely successful playing career with Leicester, England and the Lions, the 50-year-old insists his coaching philosophy has always been more expansive.
Giving the ball plenty of width during recent meetings with Worcester and Gloucester, Richards said: “We have approached each game with that philosophy, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen for you.
“Sometimes that can be down to the opposition, the weather or whatever, but the way we we started the game at Worcester on Saturday was how we want to play.”
With himself and forwards coach John Wells often erroneously attributed with attritional, mauling rugby, Richards said: “You only have to go back to my Harlequins days to see it was absolutely nothing like that. I think what people probably look at when they make those kind of comments is how I used to play the game myself, rather than how my teams play. If you look at Leicester during my time in charge, we still scored more tries than anybody else.”
Enthused by the development of his young stars in their 22-16 triumph at Sixways, the director of rugby said: “I was really pleased with the contribution of our youngsters, and they are really setting the trend at the moment with the work they are doing and the way they are playing. They are showing the way to some of the other players.
“If you consider we have injuries including Grant Shiells, Scott Lawson, Andy Saull, Richard Mayhew and Scott MacLeod in the pack, and guys like Jamie Helleur, Danny Barnes and Zach Kibirige in the backs, then we have plenty more to come. There are a lot of people missing, and the beauty of that is it has allowed some younger guys to come in and take their chance.” Amlin Challenge Cup games in Romania and France await over the next fortnight, Richards stating: “A couple of those names will come back, and we hope they can get a bit of game time.
“The other side of that is that it allows a bit of respite for the boys who have played all or most of the league games so far, although we are not taking Europe lightly.
“Bucharest are an unknown quantity for us on Saturday, and Brive away will be a very difficult thing too, the week after. The prospect of travelling to Romania, France and Italy clocks up the old air miles, for sure.”
Yet to select his squad for Saturday’s opener in Romania, one man in doubt could be Franck Montanella. The French prop lasted less than 10 minutes from the bench at Worcester, Richards explaining: “Franck just tweaked his knee, so we will see how it is and take it from there.” With hooker Rob Vickers impressing in his first full start at prop, the Falcons boss added: “We have been trialling Bobby at loose-head ever since pre-season started, and even in a couple of games towards the tail end of last season.
“He did extremely well there on Saturday. What he gives us is a little more mobility which, if you bring on George McGuigan and Scott Wilson in that front-row, means you have a lot of it in the side. Dom Barrow at lock-forward is the same.”
Barrow has spoken of his enthusiasm for the Amlin Challenge Cup fortnight, stating: “If I am involved it will be my first experience of European rugby, but the main thing is just keeping the momentum going. That is the same regardless of what competition we are playing in. We just want to keep performing.
“It is always exciting to visit new countries, and to play in different venues. Obviously there will be limited time for the squad to have a look around Romania and take in the whole place, but it is still nice to experience new cultures and enjoy being in a foreign country.”