NEWCASTLE Falcons can secure their place in the Championship semi-finals with victory over Cornish Pirates tomorrow, but scrum-half Rory Lawson is greedy for more.
The unbeaten league leaders are already 15 points clear of the chasing pack with a game in hand, but must still survive the jeopardy of the play-offs to regain Premiership status at the first attempt.
Cornish Pirates are on the other end of the equation, with last season’s beaten finalists finding themselves one point and one place away from the semi-final picture.
Knowing that a victory of any form tomorrow would be enough to book Newcastle’s place with six games to spare, Lawson said: “I suppose it is nice to have something like that done and dusted, but it is not something the boys are particularly looking at.
“It would be good in a way to know we will definitely be there, but we want to finish top of the tree and go into the semi-finals with huge momentum.”
Setting his sights even higher, the Scot added: “We want to win every single game, and we have been clear about that from the start of the season.
“If we don’t win every game during the regular season I suppose it is not the end of the world, but that is the challenge we have set ourselves.
“Certainly we are more than capable of achieving it, and being in the play-offs is something we would expect in any case given the quality of squad we have got here.”
The Falcons will go into the game without Rob Vickers after the hooker pulled his calf during last Friday’s 36-3 home win over Moseley, an injury which has seen Kiwi Michael Mayhew recalled from his loan spell at London Irish.
Of considerable interest to Lawson will be the fact that Cornish Pirates travel north without their captain Gavin Cattle, the veteran scrum-half missing out with a hip injury.
“Cattle has been their talisman down the years,” said the former Gloucester man, who retains the Falcons’ No 9 shirt.
“He didn’t start in the game against us down there, though, and their other half-back Tom Kessell is a very different kind of player. We have done our homework, as always, and we know what we are up against.”
The Pirates are also without Alan Paver, the experienced tighthead who packed down for the RFU Championship XV against the New Zealand Maori in November. He sits out the evening with a bicep injury, No 8 Laurie McGlone also an expected absentee after sustaining a knock to the head during Sunday’s home loss to London Scottish.
Lawson said: “I would expect them to come up here wanting to play, although hopefully the weather will be a bit better than when we went to Penzance in September.
“When the conditions allow them to play they do like to move it about a bit – we just had an absolute stinker of a day there with the driving rain and the wind. They will come up here looking to throw the ball around, they have had some varying results over the past few weeks and they will want to bounce back after their defeat against London Scottish last time out.
“The most important thing for us is just to focus on our own bit, and doing what we can ourselves. Obviously we respect the opposition and will prepare properly, but we believe if we put things in place and execute them on the day then we will win the game.”
The Falcons are offering a free ticket for serving or former members of the armed forces or emergency services by calling 0871 226 60 60. Kick-off is at 7pm, with the England-France game at 5pm being shown live in the stadium bars.