Newcastle Falcons’ LV= Cup hopes may be hanging by a thread but Rob Hawkins insists there is still plenty at stake in their final two pool games.
The Falcons currently sit third in Pool 3, with just a solitary losing bonus point to their name, eight points behind Leicester Tigers, who currently occupy the sole qualifying spot.
But with the competition often seen as a breeding ground for young talent, and an opportunity for fringe players to stake a claim for more regular first-team rugby, Hawkins says this weekend’s clash with Sale Sharks will be a high-intensity affair.
The hooker has played just 46 minutes in Aviva Premiership Rugby this term but has made his mark in the European Rugby Challenge Cup and is keen for a chance to shine on the domestic stage.
He believes that Sale contest is the perfect proving ground to do just that and admits the whole squad are desperate to right the wrongs of previous LV= Cup games.
“It’s all about team performances in the LV= Cup,” explained Hawkins. “We haven’t had the best of starts in the competition and the results haven’t gone our way.
“We’re just trying to keep the ball rolling now, play our brand of rugby and keep on getting better.
“It’s a very competitive squad up here and these games are good for the boys coming in to try and stake their claim and show the coaches that we can play as well.
“It’s a great opportunity for all the lads coming in, including myself, and we want to put our best foot forward.
“I’ve been a little bit frustrated not to get the game time in the Premiership but we’re a very tight-knit squad and I’ve enjoyed the chances I’ve had.
“So hopefully I can personally put in good performances over the next couple of weeks and stake my claim for a bit more action in the near future.”
After seven years at Bath Rugby, Hawkins spent four years with Leicester Tigers before moving to Kingston Park last summer.
The 31-year-old claims the transition to the North East has been smooth and that’s he’s excited to be at the club for what promises to be an exciting few years .
“I’ve brought my family up here and it’s an area that has blown us all away,” added Hawkins. “My family love it and as first six or seven months, I’ve really enjoyed myself – long may it continue.
“Newcastle is definitely a club that’s going places – you look at the young guys who have come in this season and I think it’s a club on the up.
“If we can keep the coaching staff together and keep playing our brand of rugby then I think we can surprise a few of the big clubs.
“We’ll keep building for the future and I don’t think it’s too far around the corner.”
Tickets for this year's LV= Cup Final on 22 March at Franklin's Gardens are now on sale. Click here to snap one up from just £20 for adults, £10 for juniors to see who will win the first silverware of the season.