Ally Hogg believes Newcastle Falcons are well set to attack the new Aviva Premiership season after a double dose of victory last weekend.
The Scottish back-rower scored a try and captained the side in their 49-19 home victory over Nottingham, less than an hour after the Falcons had defeated Championship semi-finalists Doncaster Knights 31-8.
Newcastle host Rotherham Titans this Saturday in a 4.30pm kick-off, Hogg insisting the club are in good shape as they close in on their Aviva Premiership opener at home to Worcester Warriors on Friday September 1.
“This is definitely the best squad we’ve had during the time I’ve been here,” said the 48-times-capped back-rower, who recently signed a contract extension going into his seventh season with the Kingston Park club.
“Not only is there a strong XV, but also the depth of quality we have behind that. When you look at every position there’s nobody really guaranteed their shirt, and there’s great competition. Guys know they have to play well to stay in the team because there’s a queue behind them waiting to step in.”
Many of the Falcons’ summer influx impressed on debut last weekend, including French duo Maxime Mermoz and Sami Mavinga, returning fly-half Toby Flood, ex-Yorkshire Carnegie captain Ryan Burrows, prop Trevor Davison and Richmond scrum-half Sam Stuart, to name a few.
Hogg said: “Playing two games on the same day was great because it got meaningful game time into a lot of the boys. Quite a few of us played 80 minutes or thereabouts, and it was really useful.
“The first game of the season is always a little bit rusty in terms of trying to implement everything we’ve been working on in training, but it’s nice to be playing against people who don’t know your own calls!
“It’s hard to read too much into pre-season results because you can win all your friendlies and lose your first Aviva Premiership game, or vice versa. It’s more about the coaches having a look at combinations, boys getting game time into themselves and kicking on from there.
“In our game I thought young Ben Stevenson put in a very strong performance, he is a real good talent, and Simon Uzokwe carried really well. Trevor Davison stepped up from Blaydon and did himself proud on his debut, and it’s about guys getting that first taste at this level.
“The next step from us is to take the learnings from training and from the double header, and use them against Rotherham this Saturday. We’ve got a limited menu in game one, and it’s a case of adding things to it going towards Worcester in the Premiership opener.”
Saturday’s 4.30pm kick-off against Rotherham is preceded by Blaydon v Glasgow Hawks at 2pm, with Hogg this season having taken over as Blaydon’s director of rugby. Falcons season ticket members are entitled to free entry on the day. Non-season ticket members can gain entry for just £10 adults and £5 juniors by calling 0871 226 6060.