Dean Richards says the Kingston Park faithful can play their part in Friday night’s Aviva Premiership visit of Exeter Chiefs, having named his Newcastle Falcons side for the 8pm kick-off.
The Falcons are hopeful of their biggest home crowd of the season for a game dubbed the ‘Big Night Oot,’ with Northumbria University playing Hartpury College on the main pitch at 4.45pm. There is free curry for all supporters post-match in the West Concourse and 1877 Bar, Richards predicting a vibrant atmosphere as the region’s supporters continue to get behind their team in ever-greater numbers.
The director of rugby said: “It really is an exciting time, and Friday is going to be an outstanding occasion. I think we could get upwards of 8,000 in here, which is nearly a sell-out, and there is no atmosphere like it when this place has that many supporters here. The boys are looking forward to it and even the coaches have a buzz about them.
“An atmosphere like that is amazing, and it does get inside the players’ heads. As a coach you almost have to check yourself and distance yourself from it, you have to remain focused when it’s game time but there is no doubting the fact that a full, loud stadium is a massive advantage for us. It really will give a huge lift to the lads.”
The Falcons are without full-back Simon Hammersley after the season-ending ACL injury he sustained in their last league outing at Wasps, while Sonatane Takulua (Tonga) and Evan Olmstead (Canada) are both away on international duty.
Fit-again Fijian Vereniki Goneva (hamstring) and former Leicester team-mate Opeti Fonua (calf) are both ready to make an impact from the bench after overcoming early-season muscle injuries – flanker Will Welch skippering the Falcons as they aim to continue their strong home record in the league.
Newcastle have won two of their three Aviva Premiership outings at Kingston Park Stadium and only lost the other by a single point to Leicester Tigers, Richards saying: “It is going to be an interesting few weeks, we will take out of it what we can and hopefully that will be a few wins.
“We are playing three good sides in Exeter, Northampton and Harlequins, we are doing better than we have done in previous years and that is reflected in the way the crowd has been drawn in for Friday night. The squad is improving, we have a lot of good young players coming through and it creates a nice headache in the sense that guys are staking a genuine claim for places.
“We hadn’t won a game until the week after Christmas last year, so in that sense it is a totally different club altogether. There is a real buzz about the place, the boys are enjoying their rugby and we are playing a lot of ball in hand. We are kicking a lot less than any other side in the Premiership – probably too little in some respects – but at the same time we are enjoying our rugby and putting the ball through the hands.”
On the threat posed by Exeter, he added: “There are a couple of things they are doing a little differently, but at the same time they have played against some good teams. I don’t think you can draw too much from their start to the season in terms of the quality they have got – they are a really good side and it will be a difficult game.
“They have a big, lumpy forward pack, they don’t mind carrying it through their pack and our forwards are going to have to put in a real shift. If we get what we want out of that forward area we have a set of backs who can cause a lot of damage. People like Sinoti Sinoti, Marcus Watson, Juan Pablo Socino, Alex Tait, Dom Waldouck, Mike Delany and the like – we have a back line which is outstanding.
“We’re doing alright. We’ve won three games out of seven and taken a few losing bonus points. We have got every chance of winning a few more games going into Christmas, and in that respect we are doing fine. But the obvious way to improve things is to score more tries and concede fewer.”
Tickets for the game are selling fast but are still available by calling 0871 226 6060, visiting www.newcastlefalcons.co.uk or from the stadium box office in person.
Newcastle Falcons team to face Exeter Chiefs (Friday, 8pm, Kingston Park Stadium)
15 Alex Tait
14 Marcus Watson
13 Dominic Waldouck
12 Juan Pablo Socino
11 Sinoti Sinoti
10 Mike Delany
9 Michael Young
1 Sam Lockwood
2 Scott Lawson
3 Jon Welsh
4 Calum Green
5 Will Witty
6 Mark Wilson
7 Will Welch (captain)
8 Ally Hogg
16 David Nelson
17 Rob Vickers
18 David Wilson
19 Glen Young
20 Opeti Fonua
21 Sam Egerton
22 Joel Hodgson
23 Vereniki Goneva
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth