Mark Wilson insists Newcastle Falcons’ rivalry with Sale Sharks is no phoney war, and that northern bragging rights will be firmly up for grabs at Kingston Park on Friday night.
The Falcons have already beaten Sale this season, recording a 15-14 triumph when the two teams met in Manchester in the second week of the campaign.
Following Leeds’ relegation the two clubs are the Premiership’s only representatives north of Leicester, Wilson keen for Newcastle to establish supremacy over Steve Diamond’s Sharks side.
“When you play for Newcastle every game is a long way away, and despite the distance Sale are our closest rivals,” said the Cumbrian flanker, who played the full 80 minutes during Friday’s 17-12 home defeat by London Wasps.
“It is always a big game for northern rugby when ourselves and Sale meet, and there is absolutely a lot riding on it.
“We have put our statement out in terms of saying we want to be the best club in the north in the next few years, and what better chance to do that than at home to Sale on Friday?”
Recalling their AJ Bell Stadium triumph as Rory Clegg’s long-range penalty sealed a first win of the season in September, Wilson said: “I came on as a replacement in the away game.
“It was a massive defensive effort that night – especially in the last 20 minutes.
“Hopefully we are not going to be in that position again because we will be defending a bigger lead, but to do that we need to learn the lessons from the Wasps game in terms of managing the wind and playing more for territory.
“Once we get that right I am sure we will be sorted.”
Failing to use the wind at their backs in Friday’s home loss, the blind-side stated: “We got a losing bonus point in the end, but we were still not happy with how the game went. In the first half we were poor. Very poor, in fact. We didn’t play in the areas where we wanted to play, but in the second half we showed plenty of guts.
“We did the same against the wind down at Exeter the week before, and we have shown we can be a good side.
“It is something we have got to learn now in terms of how to manage the wind, especially during these winter months where the conditions are going to be bad. Wasps did that a lot better than us on Friday, and we have to take it on board.
“When you are playing with the wind you want to peg them back and make them have to work their way out of their own 22.
“That is especially true at grounds like Kingston Park where the wind is a factor a lot of the time, and the North East corner of the stadium is a nightmare to get out of when teams pepper it with kicks.
“I don’t think we put the ball down there enough, and we gave them piggy-backs out of their own territory.
“Against the wind we kept the ball pretty well in the second half, and we showed some of what we are capable of.”
A late addition to the side thanks to Richard Mayhew’s illness, Wilson explained: “I got the call just after lunchtime on match-day.
“It is one of those things where if you get told at the last minute it is good because you don’t have time to dwell on it too much. You can just go out and do your stuff, and I was excited more than anything.
“Obviously you don’t want anyone to miss out through injury or illness, and Richard had been outstanding in our previous few games. You have got to respect the shirt and the work he has put into it, and I was delighted from a selfish perspective to get the chance after being out for a while.
“I really enjoyed it, and the back-row here at the moment is probably the strongest part of the team in terms of the competition and the number of guys going for selection.
“You have got three or four quality guys going for every single position, and when you get your opportunity you need to make it count.
“I would like to think I have put my hand up for the Sale game on Friday which is a big, if not bigger, one than Wasps.”