Fine margins cost Newcastle Falcons a mid-table finish last season according to director of rugby Dean Richards, and this year he is adamant his side will put that right in the Aviva Premiership Rugby.
Faced with numerous injuries to key players, the lengthy pre-season has been a blessing in disguise for the Falcons, who are looking to improve on 11th-place finishes the last two years.
Newcastle welcome Gloucester next weekend in what will be a tricky opening to their Aviva Premiership Rugby season, with the Cherry and Whites winning a thrilling encounter 42-40 when the sides last met in April.
That was just one of ten games the Falcons lost by less than one score last term, and Richards is under no illusions as to what needs to change this time around.
“From a playing perspective I thought we put out a lot of good rugby on the field last year,” he said.
“The sad thing was we missed games by seven points or less, and by the end of the season that came to about 11 or 13 of those which for us is not great.
“It is just the small things that make a big difference; we just have to make sure we nail the small things and hopefully we can come away with a few more wins this year.
“Reading between the lines, a lot of clubs have had some injuries and is it probably because they have been pushing them so hard for so long.
“There comes a time when you have got to back off and we are in the same boat as other people, so we decided to back off a bit and the boys are looking pretty fit at the moment.”
The Falcons have recruited well over the summer, bringing in a host of players who have played at international level.
And Richards is convinced a more experienced Newcastle line-up holds the key to finally pushing the club onto the next level in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
He said: “We have a lot of experience that has come into the side now, whether being inthe front row with Jon Welsh and Taione Vea, Mouritz Botha in the second row, or in the back row with Todd Clever.
“Then you have the backline and you look at Micky Young, Mike Delany, Marcus Watson, and Giovanbattista Venditti.
“There is a load of guys that all have got international experience in some shape or another.
“In that respect it is the strongest side we’ve had in not just ability, but in leadership capabilities and experience as well.
“It is good to be back, it has been a long pre-season in many ways, you look at what we have got on paper and it is absolutely fantastic.”
The 2015-16 Aviva Premiership Rugby Season kicks off on 16 October. To see all of the fixtures click here.