Newcastle Falcons will help kick off the new Aviva Premiership Rugby season in style with a northern derby against Sale Sharks on Friday evening, and flanker Ally Hogg is determined start on the right note.
Dean Richards’ side went without a victory in the league until Round 8 last term, but then a run of four wins in six matches ensured they would finish above London Irish in the standings.
The Falcons drew at Sale in Round 5 before a narrow defeat in the final game of the season, and Hogg is confident they can come away with a winning start this time around.
And after a solid preseason, Hogg knows that starting the year well could see his side overcome the string of narrow defeats and late comebacks that plagued their campaign last season
“We lost a few games that we could have won last year, and went on a good run after Christmas, but we got off to a very slow start last season,” he said.
“We’ll be looking to reverse that this year of course. We want to get off to a flyer rather than have a bit of a panic later on in the season when things aren’t going so well.
“We’ve got several games at the start of the season which we think are very winnable, so we’ll be targeting them and hopefully that can breed confidence in the side.
“We don’t set specific targets at this point of the year, but like any club we want to be in the top half of the table.
“We think we’ve put the processes in place to hopefully achieve that, and while last year we weren’t exactly where we wanted to be, we’ve been working hard to rectify that. We’ll be looking to show our intentions during the first few games.”
There have been several new faces at Kingston Park this summer, as there were last year, with the likes of Vereniki Goneva and Opeti Fonua from Leicester Tigers just two of 14 arrivals.
But Hogg is confident that the vast number of new recruits will find their feet in the North East quickly.
He said: “We’ve had a lot of new guys in again this season, but I don’t think it will be as hard at the beginning of the season.
“Last year we had guys away at the World Cup and they came in late and we had to try and fit them into the system.
“But this year we’ve had most guys here, and so everyone is familiar with how we want to play, what we want to do and how we want to attack.
“So fingers crossed we don’t have the same problems as we had at the beginning of the season, and then we keep everyone fit and healthy throughout.
“Obviously Niki Goneva has come over and it will be exciting to see him playing for us, and alongside him we have Sinoti Sinoti who barely played last year and Mike Delany.
“Those are two guys who have of course played for us before, but we did not see them at their best last year because of injury so getting them back is like having two extra new signings as well.”
Aviva Premiership Rugby returns this weekend. For a full fixture list please click here