With ten games lost by less than one score last term in the Aviva Premiership Rugby, Newcastle Falcons skipper Will Welch is under no illusions as to what needs to change this season to see his side shoot up the table.
Dean Richards’ side finished 11th ahead of only London Welsh last season, but the story could have been so different had even half of those tight games gone the other way.
The Falcons entertain Gloucester Rugby at the weekend in what will certainly be a testing opening encounter – the Cherry& Whites edged a tight encounter 42-40 the last time the sides met in April.
But Welch is confident that with an improved squad, Newcastle can make up those fine margins this season and finish way higher up the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.
“I thought last year, although we were disappointed with our standing in the Premiership at the end of the season, there were a lot of positives to come out of it,” he said.
“In terms of how we played – the points and the tries we scored – we did well and improved, so this year it’s about making sure we focus on getting results and changing those close games into wins.
“If we do that I’m sure we’ll finish further up the table. It does feel like we are a squad on the up and that we’re building year on year.
“We’ve made some good signings this year so we’ve got a lot of strength in depth now in the squad, as well as a lot of experience coming in, so that’s really good as well.
“We’ve had some chats as a squad about what we’d like to achieve, and our main aim is to just keep on improving, but if we can turn all those close games into wins there is no reason why we can’t finish in the top half of the table.
“I think you’ve got to set your sights high. If you don’t then you’ll never get there.”
Newcastle lost their opening four matches last season, and for that reason Welch is adamant they need to get off to a much faster start this time around.
And with his side itching to get on the pitch after a longer than usual pre-season, Welch believes the Falcons will come storming out of the traps.
He added: “It’s really important for us to get a fast start as we need that confidence. The first two games are massive, and there’s no better place to get the season started than at home.
“I think everyone is really looking forward to getting back to action now as it’s been such a long pre-season and whatnot.
“We’ve had a few pre-season games under our belts too so everyone really is chomping at the bit to get going in the Premiership.”
The 2015-16 Aviva Premiership Rugby Season kicks off on 16 October. To see all of the fixtures click here.