James Fitzpatrick eyes European gains for Newcastle Falcons

Newcastle Falcons centre James Fitzpatrick aims to use Challenge Cup to rejuvenate his side's league fortunes

Newcastle Falcons' James Fitzpatrick
Newcastle Falcons' James Fitzpatrick

James Fitzpatrick says a fortnight of European action is a chance for Newcastle Falcons to draw a line under last weekend’s league hammering by Harlequins.

Beaten 35-9 by the Londoners, they now face Italian outfit Calvisano in back-to-back Amlin Challenge Cup encounters as Europe’s second-tier competition reaches its halfway point.

“Tuesday was a bit quiet and down, but the lads said to each other just to forget about the Harlequins game and move on,” said the former Blaydon and Westoe centre, who is expected to come into the starting XV for Sunday’s 3pm kick-off.

“We came in on Wednesday and it was a fresh start. Everyone was buzzy, ready to rock and roll again. We know we didn’t perform last Sunday, and we just want to put it right.”

Shipping four tries in front of the TV cameras and their biggest home crowd of the season, the South Shields native added: “The most frustrating part of it is that most of Harlequins’ tries were down to our own mistakes.

“We didn’t set early enough at the breakdown for Danny Care’s try, we let the hooker through a gap for the first try and in attack we didn’t adjust early enough to their line-speed.

“When you are playing against the top teams that is all they need to go on, and you can’t switch off at this level. You need to be mentally alert for the whole game, and performing in 10 or 15-minute slots isn’t good enough.

“But the Harlequins game is history now. You can’t mope about all week after a defeat, so we have just took it on the chin and moved on.

“We have been playing a bit of Gaelic football during the week and had some games just to get the spirits up. We have had some good sessions, and the lads have really stuck together.”

Buoyed by the fresh challenge of battling for an Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final place, the Falcons are in arguably the widest open pool as they, Brive and Bucharest sit within a point of one another.

“It is not a different mind-set for Europe, but it is two weeks for us to re-focus and re-build,” said Fitzpatrick, whose side face Exeter, Sale Sharks and London Wasps over the festive period in three matches vital to their Premiership fortunes.

“We want to play good rugby against Calvisano with plenty of energy, and to score the tries which we haven’t been doing in the league.

“It is a chance for us to enjoy our game again, to get the confidence back up and crack on for the Exeter game before Christmas. The pressure is probably off us a little bit, and with not knowing a huge amount about Calvisano we can just go and play our own brand.”

Unsure as to what sort of challenge awaits his side on Sunday, he said: “We have seen a couple of their matches on the video, but if we stick to our patterns and get the momentum going we should be in decent shape, playing to our strengths.

“We have seen them against Brive and Bucharest, but it is hard to take too much out of it because they played completely differently in both of them.

“Their defensive and attacking patterns were all over the place from what we are used to in the Premiership. That is not meant as any disrespect to them, but it is just a different kind of challenge from what we have most weeks in England.

“We are used to playing against a bit more structure, and we have to adapt to the challenges and opportunities that will be there this weekend.

“We have got to play what we see, hit gaps when they appear and move their big lads around the field. We are going to play for the space, and score some tries.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle lock Will Witty was part of the England Under-18s squad which defeated Australia 23-3 at Harrow School.

Witty was a replacement for the side coached by ex-Falcons boss John Fletcher.

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