Roger Uttley: Newcastle Falcons must build following survival

Former England captain Roger Uttley says Newcastle Falcons can now use Premiership survival to build for a longer-term future in the Premiership

Dan Mullan/Getty Images Joel Hodgson of Newcastle Falcons
Joel Hodgson of Newcastle Falcons

Newcastle Falcons have now won their battle for Premiership rugby next season, something I am sure will be a great relief for everybody involved with the club and for all supporters of rugby in the North East.

Having taken a losing bonus point from the league leaders Saracens they went to London Wasps last weekend and, even though they fell short of winning the game, they secured more bonus points.

It sounds like they are at last playing some rugby. They are certainly scoring tries, which is better late than never for a side who have struggled to get over the line for much of the season.

This in turn has bought them the valuable commodity of time – something they were denied last season by the timing of their promotion from the Championship.

Finishing the play-offs on May 29 last year left little time for a proper pre-season, and the sort of squad preparation you need at this level to get your house in order.

This upturn in form seems to have coincided with the increased participation of Joel Hodgson at fly-half.

A number of people are now waiting to see what, if anything, happens with regards to him being at the club next season.

When you have a local lad with a bit of star quality, I find it hard to believe that he wasn’t signed up weeks ago.

Hopefully that situation will be resolved positively for the Falcons, given the comments from Dean Richards around his performance.

Whenever they have had any success recently, he seems to have featured in it.

In terms of future signings we shall have to wait and see what is around the corner, but what does seem certain is that the squad needs to be seriously bolstered.

Without being in the changing room it is hard to say what has brought about this change in try-scoring ability.

From the outside one can only assume the players are understanding more of the job they are being asked to do by the coaches.

Let’s hope that continues, and remember that just by surviving in the division Newcastle have done really well.

Those early first three victories have proved precious and ensured they were not in the difficult position of having to play catch-up.

Exeter are the visitors to Kingston Park this weekend and, on the basis of watching them against Harlequins last Sunday, despite a recent dip they remain a potent attacking force.

Gareth Steenson at fly-half controls things for them, and they try to keep the ball alive.

Rob Baxter as coach seems to have instilled a strong sense of self-belief which they were able to demonstrate against the Quins.

Whether or not they have enough in the tank against the Falcons remains to be seen, with nothing to play for in terms of their European hopes.

It is really a dead rubber, but it will be a good test for Newcastle. Now that they have established a bit of a rhythm it is important they keep it going, and I would expect them to be up for it.

Playing for pride is a powerful motivational tool, and making sure they get the win which has eluded them for so long in the league should be enough in itself, and then players can go away for their well-earned summer break.

With this being the last weekend of the season there will be many players playing their last games for their respective clubs

It reminds me of when I left Gosforth for Wasps back in 1977.

By some quirk our last game of the season came against Wasps, and we went down there and put 30-odd points on them.

All the lads were looking at me in the Gosforth changing room saying ‘what are you doing signing for this lot?’

For the players moving, on I wish them all the best at their new clubs.

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