NEWCASTLE captain Phil Dowson has laid down the challenge to his Falcons troops ahead of tomorrow’s Guinness Premiership trip to London Wasps.
The England Saxons No 8 believes the Falcons can take their recent four-match unbeaten run to Adams Park, a venue which holds mixed memories for the 26-year-old.
“Playing away at Wasps is where I snapped my bicep last season, so I’m just happy to be back on the pitch, enjoying every minute and playing as well as I can,” said Dowson, who knows his Falcons side will have to urgently address their away record to fulfil their ambitions.
“Our away form has been very poor, and it’s not something we are totally oblivious of.
“The only difference between our preparation for an away game as opposed to a home game is a bus journey and a night in a hotel, so as professional athletes there’s no fundamental reason why that should affect the way we perform. This group of people just has to be mentally tougher and overcome this sort of thing. We have to get a result away from home, and there’s absolutely no reason why that can’t happen this week.
“But Wasps are up there with the best sides in the Guinness Premiership, and it will be a huge test.
“The away form in terms of results has been terrible, but some of our best performances over the past year have actually been away from home, even if the victory has eluded us.
“A landmark win, like Wasps away, would really get the monkey off our backs. I’m convinced that we’re going to give it a massive go.”
Despite having gone unbeaten over the last month in both the EDF Energy Cup and the European Challenge Cup, Dowson said: “We haven’t lost in four matches, but we’re not satisfied with the performance level.
“Last week against Brive there were some discipline issues and our breakdown work wasn’t clinical enough, but it’s nice in a way to be looking at these things from a winning standpoint and working hard on them in training having been unbeaten for the past month.
“We need to keep pushing on performance-wise, but we’re not forgetting the fact that results are everything. We’ve been disappointed with our Guinness Premiership form, after what was a good start for us. Our last league game against Bath saw us really let ourselves down, which is fresh in the memory, so the task now is to take some of our Cup form in to the league and start moving up to where we should be.”
Having recovered from a minor shoulder problem earlier this month, playing a full game in the 71-10 European win in Spain and coming on from the bench last week against Brive, Dowson is well aware of the challenge.
“They lost so many players to the World Cup that it proved to be a bit of a leveller for them in the early weeks of the season,” he said of a team with just one Guinness Premiership victory to its name so far. “It will be a massive challenge for us because they are coming in to some great form right now and they have a fantastic squad, but we like these sorts of tests.”
Returning to the team as captain, Dowson said of his leadership duties: “It’s not as much of a big deal to the team as people might think because we have guys like Joe McDonnell and Jamie Noon who have led the side well in games this season when I haven’t been involved.
“It’s obviously a huge honour in the games where I do captain the side, but there are guys with leadership skills right throughout the team wanting to take responsibility.”