JOHN FLETCHER is targeting cup success again as Newcastle Falcons’ pre-season programme nears an intensity step-up.
With the Premiership season not getting into swing until mid-September, the Falcons management have staggered preparations to start peaking in about a month’s time.
With the players back for another week of off-season work, talk will no doubt turn to European and domestic cup opponents after the draws were made last week.
When it does some familiar faces will be discussed, with Falcons old boy Colin Charvis likely to return with Newport and Robbie Morris and Mike McCarthy primed to do likewise with new side Connacht.
The Falcons were drawn in the same European Challenge Cup group as Connacht, French side Brive and Spanish champions Cetransa El Salvador, while their EDF Cup opposition will be Gloucester, Newport Gwent Dragons and Wasps.
Excited by the extra spice the reunions will offer, Falcons director of rugby Fletcher said the squad is well aware cup success revolves around a quick start in both competitions.
He said: “We have proven over the years we can rise to the big occasions, and we beat both Wasps and Gloucester at home last season, so we know what we can do when we turn it on.
“It will be a case of starting quickly though, otherwise the competitions can pass you by.
“One loss in the EDF and you are struggling right off the bat.
“As for Europe, last season we left it as close as it could get for getting through the group – we did it, but we would have liked to have been more comfortable that’s for sure.
“Those experiences are going to be vital for the team and the squad, because they will help shape what we do this year.”
Fletcher also believes any sustained cup progress should bolster the league challenge rather than hinder it.
He said: “Everyone is in the same boat as far as the number of games players will have to play, but that does not mean any of the sides will want to play fewer.”