Newcastle Falcons try to blunt Gloucester threat

Newcastle Falcons intend to put a speed bump in the road of Gloucester’s flying back division at Kingston Park tomorrow

Hall Charlton while plying his trade with Newcastle Falcons
Hall Charlton while plying his trade with Newcastle Falcons

Head coach Peter Russell outlined his side’s policy as both sides search for their second win of the Aviva Premiership season, Newcastle trying to tame a Gloucester side littered with pace and creative class.

The Kiwi said: “Gloucester enjoy a running game, and you have to try to stifle that.

“We will be aiming to take all their enthusiasm away by working hard together, and making sure we have go-forward rather than being frivolous with the ball.”

For a coach who enjoyed a track record as one of the game’s expansive attackers during his time in charge of Hawke’s Bay, the Falcons’ failure to score a try in 240 minutes of league rugby has been a concern.

A gutsy away win at northern rivals Sale Sharks followed an opening-night loss to Bath, while last weekend’s 31-6 loss at Leicester outlined the size of the hill they are climbing.

“We stood off Leicester, which was very disappointing,” said the head coach, making four changes for tomorrow’s skirmish.

“We had gone into the match saying we had to take our game and impose it on them, and we did not take advantage during the opening half-hour of the fact that some of their players were rusty.

“We allowed them too much momentum, and all of a sudden we were well behind on the scoreboard.

“I would like to think that we did learn from it, and we knew we had to put pressure on Leicester to get our own game going.

“That was the main lesson, and there were spells during the game where we played well and created opportunities to get in behind them.

“We had three or four decent line-breaks that we didn’t finish and, rather than performing poorly, it was more a case of not taking the opportunities we had made for ourselves.” One among many to emerge with credit from the Welford Road defeat was fly-half Rory Clegg, who has been retained in the side. Phil Godman sits on the bench after missing out last weekend.

Russell said: “For his first game back I thought Cleggy played pretty well, and it was a demanding ask to put him in at a position like fly-half after just ten minutes in pre-season and a quarter from the bench at Sale. He now has another game under his belt after a good hour or so at Leicester, and with three or four more training runs this week he is properly underway.”

Mike Blair returns at scrum-half for Warren Fury, while the rest of Newcastle’s changes come in the forward pack where Matt Thompson and Oliver Tomaszczyk add their ballast to the front-row. Ally Hogg replaces Chris York at No 8, while James Fitzpatrick continues to fill the midfield gap created by Jamie Helleur’s head injury.

Looking for more get-up-and-go than their last showing, the head coach said: “We cannot afford to play against teams like Leicester the way we did last week, or else we will be spending the whole year picking ourselves UP off the floor.

“It is about getting back on the horse, enjoying what we are doing and being absolutely relentless.

“We could be up against Saracens one week and then Harlequins the next, so you have got to have that quick turnaround and just move on from game to game, learning the lessons.”

Hopeful of registering their first five-pointer of the campaign, Russell added: “No tries in three matches is of course a worry, but we know we can play rugby.

“Our pre-season games saw us scoring something like seven tries and conceding just four, so we know we can do it. If you look at the Sale and Bath games they were both in awful conditions.

“Ryan Shortland, who scored plenty during pre-season, is hoping to be back in the next couple of weeks, but it is a long season.

“Rushing back guys with niggles just prolongs their injury in the long term, so they have got to be right.”

Well aware of the threat posed by the Cherry and Whites tomorrow, he said: “We have got to be respectful of Gloucester, and the game-breakers they have.

“There are a lot of guys with tenacity in the pack, plenty of class in the backs and a cheeky little half-back in Jimmy Cowan who has been doing it for years in New Zealand.

“You have got to have everything ticked off when you play against class teams like that, but they will have to watch us as well.”

Gloucester, like Newcastle, make four changes for the game, although former Falcon James Hudson is not among the travelling party. The lock continues to be absent through injury, Will James deputising.

 

NEWCASTLE FALCONS: A Tait, N Cato, A Powell, J Fitzpatrick, T Catterick, R Clegg, M Blair; F Montanella, M Thompson, O Tomaszczyk, C del Fava, D Barrow, M Wilson, W Welch (captain), A Hogg. G McGuigan, R Vickers, S Wilson, S MacLeod, C York, W Fury, P Godman, A Crockett.

GLOUCESTER: R Cook, J Simpson-Daniel, H Trinder, B Twelvetrees, J May, F Burns, J Cowan; D Murphy, D Dawidiuk, S Knight, T Savage (captain), W James, S Kalamafoni, M Kvesic, B Morgan. Replacements: K Britton, Y Thomas, R Harden, E Stooke, G Evans, D Robson, M Tindall, C Sharples.

Referee: A Small

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3pm

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