Jon Welsh says Newcastle Falcons are ‘in a much better place’ with an unbeaten pre-season leaving them in perfect position for Friday’s Aviva Premiership kick-off against Sale Sharks.
The Kingston Park Stadium clash (8pm) looks like seeing Welsh make his first competitive outing since the January 2 victory over Bath, when a toe injury sidelined the Scottish international.
“I think results in pre-season do matter, whatever some people might say,” said the 29-year-old, who played in victories over Edinburgh (26-21), Doncaster Knights (34-12) and Nottingham (50-12).
“A run of victories builds momentum going into your first league game, we have won all of our games against some good teams and as a result the confidence here is very high.”
Capped 11 times by his country, including at last year’s Rugby World Cup, he added: “I think we are in a completely different place to where we were last season.
“That is just through getting the foundations right in pre-season, by which I mean shape on the pitch, game plan and things like that, but also off the field. Everyone knows each other that bit better, the new signings have bedded in well and we are definitely in a much stronger position.
“A lot of players came late into the group because of the World Cup and there were a lot of new signings, so we didn’t have that luxury of building a team and gelling in the way that most teams would have in pre-season. It felt around that Christmas time like we starting to build something good when my injury came. I wasn’t able to be out there for the rest of the season and it is great now to be back and looking forward to games.”
Forced to watch the back half of last season from the stands, the 2014-15 Pro 12 title winner said: “Injury is the bane of any player’s career, and to get it so early into the club season was really heartbreaking.
“If you’re a front-row forward I don’t think you can really take a break at any point at all. The staff were brilliant here on the medical and the strength and conditioning side, they put me through my paces and looked after me at the same time.
“My outlook now is that last season is completely gone, we have put it behind us and everyone is focused purely on Sale Sharks.
“You do as much analysis as you can, but the general consensus among the squad and the staff here is that everyone is just really excited. I have obviously been out for a lot longer so I really can’t wait to get into it. We have had a good look at Sale, we are in a good place and we feel like we’re ready.”
Tickets for Friday’s season opener at Kingston Park Stadium are available by calling 0871 226 6060, or from the ticket office on the night.