ROB Vickers reckons Newcastle Falcons will need a full tank of oxygen when Irish youngsters Connacht Eagles visit Kingston Park on Saturday.
The Falcons are rested up after being given a week’s holiday following their New Year’s Day victory over Doncaster, but face an energetic return to action in the penultimate round of British and Irish Cup group games.
The Pool C leaders had already secured safe passage to the quarter-finals after last month’s 93-0 demolition of Newport, although a two-point deduction for fielding cup-tied lock James Goode means this weekend’s home date is no dead rubber.
Having already beaten Connacht Eagles 34-3 when the two teams met in Athlone in October, Vickers (pictured right) said: “My main memory from that night is they just wouldn’t stop running.”
The Falcons built on a 17-3 half-time lead against the Irish province’s shadow side and hooker Vickers added: “My lungs were burning because the game was so quick with the energy they were bringing to it, but we kept up with them and ultimately did enough to get the points.
“When they come over here for the return match we need to impose ourselves on them, keep them in check and put a real performance in.”
Having won every single competitive game under new director of rugby Dean Richards following last season’s relegation, the turning of the year brings fresh hopes and expectations for Vickers and his side.
“I hope our first half of 2013 is as positive as the last half of 2012 was” said the Yorkshireman, who came on to the Falcons’ radar during his studies at Durham University and has gone on to represent England Saxons.
“We have most of the results we have been after.
“Our performances have improved for the most part and if we can continue that then everything is pointing upwards for us. Enjoyment and winning rugby games are what we are looking forward to, so everyone is just on with that and focused on getting the club to where it needs to be.”
Keen to learn the lessons from a sluggish 28-10 triumph at Doncaster last time out, Vickers added: “It was a frustrating game to be involved with, but the bottom line was we gained the result we had gone there for in terms of the five points.
“People might say with Doncaster being bottom we should have beaten them by a lot more, but they are decent side and even when we played them at home earlier in the season they were a pretty robust unit.
“Areas of our set-piece work were very good, but some elements around that were not quite finished off.
“We set up a lot of driving mauls and got things going in decent areas, but we didn’t convert them and that was a major disappointment. From the scrummaging side we scored one from a penalty try and another from the base, which was a decent return.
“So from a forwards point of view there was reasonable stuff in there which we can look to build on in the coming weeks.”
Fully rested after as he prepares to return from his week away from rugby, Vickers said: “There are a whole range of benefits to getting a week off during the middle of the season.
“The management have recognised we have had quite a long slog so far, and with the play-offs not being until May there is a huge emphasis on having fresh legs.”