IT might be the sporting equivalent of frying your chips in extra-virgin olive oil, but Dean Richards is the man making the call over how many of Newcastle Falcons’ big guns to risk on British and Irish Cup duty.
With the promotion play-offs only nine days on from tomorrow’s trip to Bedford, Richards will today name his XV for the Goldington Road semi-final.
The winners of Leinster and Munster’s reserve-grade sides lie in wait on Friday May 17, but with Leeds Carnegie to come before that in the league semi-finals the director of rugby finds himself trying to balance the two.
What is in no doubt whatsoever is that he wants to deliver the club’s first silverware since the 2004 Powergen Cup – sevens accolades aside.
The former England and Lions great (pictured right) said: “Bedford, like ourselves, will be going for the British and Irish Cup.
“Depending what happens in the league it could be the only chance of silverware for either of us, and you cannot neglect that. You have to take each game seriously, and if you go half-cocked into any of them you run the risk of coming away empty-handed.
“As well as being a competition worth winning in its own right the cup is also great preparation for the league play-offs, and it keeps the momentum going if we can stay alive and ultimately win the thing.
“Losing in any competition is a dent to our pride, and not something we want to even consider allowing.”
Having gone unbeaten for exactly one year, last Saturday’s 19-14 reverse to Bristol was not the manner in which the Championship’s runaway leaders wanted to end their regular season. Understandably in no mind to panic at a single loss, Richards said: “Everybody has taken it on the chin, and the players have been really honest in admitting what they did wrong.
“As in any walk of life you learn from your mistakes, and we have addressed those things during the week. Our individual errors were the most disappointing element, and while it didn’t end up meaning much in the grand scheme of things the fact remains we didn’t want to lose.
“For us our goal now is going unbeaten until the end of the season and, considering the games we have coming up, that is going to be no easy feat. It is achievable all the same, and that is what we are determined to do.
“It is a case of us just finishing our chances off, making sure we don’t push too hard or get caught by the nerves. We just have to play the game we want to play and not panic, because one defeat does not change the fact we are a good side.”
Facing a Bedford team only beaten by a last-minute converted try from Noah Cato when the two clubs met at Kingston Park in March, the director of rugby said: “They are a good side.
“They played a territorial game when they came up here, and felt they couldn’t beat us playing with the ball in hand. That is a little bit like what Bristol did last weekend, and what we need to understand in cup games is that is not necessarily a case of trying to score four tries and get the bonus point.
“It is all about going out there and winning the game. That can be by just a single point, but you need to win above all else.”
Refusing to use last week’s theft of their video analysis equipment as any form of mitigation, Richards added: “It is just a part of life, and not something we are dwelling on. People get their houses broken into all the time, and we don’t want to make a big deal of it because it hasn’t hampered our preparation too much.”