Psychological gains can put Falcons on the right path, says McKenzie

Scottish lock Fraser McKenzie highlights mental improvements as Newcastle Falcons seek upturn in league fortunes

Fraser McKenzie
Fraser McKenzie

Scottish lock Fraser McKenzie believes the components of Newcastle Falcons’ game will only fall into place once they have got the top two inches sorted out.

Hosting Italian visitors Calvisano in Sunday’s Amlin Challenge Cup encounter, the former Sale Sharks man is among the many seeking a major improvement on last weekend’s 35-9 thumping by Harlequins.

Highlighting psychological as well as physical grounds for improvements, McKenzie said: “We are all good enough rugby players and Dean Richards stated that in the changing room after the Harlequins game.

“We do believe that and when you go through the teams there is not that much difference between us and the Premiership sides we are playing against.

“We have the edge in some departments, they might do in others but I don’t think there is any difference.

“It is 15 guys v 15 guys, and we need to have that sort of self-belief which enables us to go out there and beat these top-four teams.

“Once we get that we will start gaining the wins and we could have blown Harlequins out of the water if we had shown all the parts we had worked on during the week. Unfortunately we didn’t.”

Lamenting the Falcons’ inability to get going after three Premiership games without a single try, he added: “The fact we are not scoring tries is all related to the set-piece, even given the fact our scrum has been going well.

“We win a penalty through a strong scrum, but then where do we go from there? Our scrum has always been strong but until we get our other areas sorted out teams are not going to be afraid of us.

“We need to lift it and to straighten things out.”

Partnering Carlo del Fava in the second-row last time out, McKenzie will be among those waiting to hear if they have been retained in the side for Sunday’s European date, the third of six scheduled group games.

Having won by a point in Romania Newcastle fell to French outfit Brive in their second match in the competition, leaving them placed third but within striking distance of the top spot.

Brive’s shock draw at Calvisano has thrown the pool wide open, McKenzie taking nothing for granted against a Calvisano club with vast Heineken Cup experience. The 25-year-old said: “You cannot take any teams lightly in the Amlin Challenge Cup and Calvisano are a side who have been going well in their own domestic competition.

“They are an unknown to us in many ways, but they have drawn with Brive and shown what they can do.

“If you start underestimating teams at this level and thinking you are going to walk over them, that is when you come unstuck.”

Looking to the fundamentals of their game as a launchpad for better fortunes, the ex-Edinburgh man added: “You have to take it step by step and break it down to the real basics because until you get the basics right you are never going to do anything.

“It has been frustrating, I am not going to lie. Consistency levels are what myself and everybody needs to improve on and and to show what we can do on a more regular basis.

“Until you get those basic skills right it is not going to happen, and that execution of accuracy is what has been lacking.

“They all relate to each other and when your foundation is not working the subsequent bits fail.”

Meanwhile, fellow Falcons lock Will Witty has been named in the England Under-18s squad for this afternoon’s visit of the Australian national schoolboy side.

The Yorkshireman has been a regular for Newcastle in the A-League this term, and packs down for England as they tackle the Aussies at Harrow School.

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