Dean Richards insists Newcastle Falcons’ spirits have not been dealt a fatal blow despite drawing a blank in their first game back in the Aviva Premiership.
The RFU Championship winners were beaten 21-0 by Bath at Kingston Park, and now travel to Sale Sharks on Friday aiming to get their campaign moving forwards.
The director of rugby said: “What we can take into the Sale game is the kind of endeavour we showed against Bath.
“We got ourselves into the right positions at times, even if we did manage to shoot ourselves in the foot rather than converting it into points. We have just got to be a little bit more clinical.”
Richards has seen it all before in his time with Harlequins, losing their first five games back in the top flight but going on to comfortably achieve safety.
The Falcons boss said: “We are still positive for the Sale game, and the season in general.
“I have said all along that it is a long old season, and it is not just about one match.
“Where you finish at the end of the year is the key, and I have been there before with Harlequins.
“When we were promoted to the Premiership we found it very difficult in those first few weeks. London Welsh started well last season but went down, and it is what happens over 22 league games, rather then just the one, that really counts.”
Only one week into the season Richards is already conducting a body-count ahead of Friday’s trip to Salford, although the revolving door of injuries sees some coming back as well as dropping out.
Samoan centre Jamie Helleur is a doubt after leaving the field less than 10 minutes into the opening game with a bang to the head.
Richards joked after the game: “He doesn’t know whether he’s Arthur or Martha.
“He has forgotten the £10 he owes me, but he is fine, considering.”
Tane Tu’ipulotu could come into the equation after returning to fitness, the Tongan veteran having played 20 minutes for the Falcons’ Development Team against Blaydon nine days ago after missing the senior XV’s three pre-season games with a knee injury.
Adam Powell replaced Helleur from the bench to good effect on Friday, while out wide Richards also has injuries to consider.
Ryan Shortland, the club’s top try-scorer during their warm-up games, was a late withdrawal against Bath after suffering a calf strain, while teenage speedster Zach Kibirige has been nursing a hamstring injury over the past six weeks.
Richards said: “Zach has that little bit of an X-factor about him, but we are only one game in, and we are comfortable in terms of knowing which guys we have coming back over the next few weeks.” Among that number could be Rory Clegg, the former Barnard Castle pupil who is back at Kingston Park for his second spell as a Newcastle player, vying with Phil Godman and Joel Hodgson for the No 10 shirt.
In the forwards there seem to be more numbers heading out of contention rather than in, with Italian lock Carlo del Fava leaving the fray with a shoulder injury against Bath.
Props Franck Montanella and Kieran Brookes both picked up knocks, while hooker Scott Lawson is expected to be sidelined for around six weeks after undergoing an operation on a broken finger.
Props Oliver Tomaszczyk and Grant Shiells were both out injured for last week’s opener, while hooker Matt Thompson could come back in the frame after pulling out on the day with illness.
Sale, meanwhile, opened up with a shock 22-16 win at Gloucester.