It’s been a week of change for Newcastle Falcons as they train in Philadelphia ahead of their hotly-anticipated Aviva Premiership Rugby match against Saracens at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday.
And Canadian Falcons lock Evan Olmstead believes change is the way forward at the weekend as Dean Richards’ side attempt to build on their best start to an Aviva Premiership Rugby season since 2004.
Sarries won the corresponding fixture at Kingston Park 35-27 last season, but the Falcons adjusted their strategy in the second half of that game and gave the European champions a serious test.
“Playing against Saracens you’ve got to keep them guessing, keep them on their toes,” said Olmstead. “They’ve got some pretty spectacular players.
“Everyone talks about the Saracens kick-chase, that Saracens pressure they build, but we showed last year when we mixed things up and changed the picture on them, they don’t quite know how to respond.
“An area that’s been big for us this year has been our defence, so we need to keep bringing our defence and put them under pressure, even the best players make mistakes when they’re put under the pump.”
The defence Olmstead refers to was perfectly displayed in Newcastle’s 13-12 win over Sale Sharks on Friday night, with Calum Green and Mark Wilson both making 17 tackles and knocking attackers back time after time.
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After a pre-season injury second row Olmstead is fit again and fighting for a place in a competitive Falcons squad, with their engine room performing particularly well at the AJ Bell Stadium, notably with ten stolen lineouts.
Having played for the Prairie Wolf Pack in the Canadian Rugby Championship, and won 16 caps for his country, Olmstead has plenty of experience of North American rugby.
But having arrived in Philadelphia on Sunday, the ex-London Scottish lock says this week is a whole new experience, and that the atmosphere is simmering in the city ahead of Saturday’s mouth-watering clash.
“I’ve seen there’s posters plastered up all around the place so I think there’s interest around,” Olmstead added.
“There’s big photographs of Niki Goneva and Owen Farrell going head-to-head so it should be interesting on Saturday.
“Quite a few of the guys have never been to the United States before, so to see all these shops that you’ve heard about, driving down the road and seeing 15 Dunkin’ Donuts within two blocks, it’s good.
“It’s a normal training week in a unique setting, it’s something a bit different for us.
“It’ll be the same as a home game at Newcastle would be, but in a different setting, instead of your usual coffee break you might go and run up the Rocky steps.”