Newcastle Falcons captain Will Welch has stressed the importance of a fast start to the 2015/16 Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign as they host Gloucester Rugby in their season opener on Friday night.
The Falcons lost their first four games last season and ended up finishing second from bottom in the Aviva Premiership Rugby.
Welch is hoping the club’s new signings, which include former New Zealand fly-half Mike Delany and ex-England and Saracens lock Mouritz Botha, can help the North East’s leading light move away from the bottom of the table.
Welch said: “There is always a bit of excitement when new players come in and they are all good players as well.
“They are not only experienced but they bring a bit of freshness to the side and some new ideas, and they have made a big impact both on and off the pitch.
“It’s really important for us to get a fast start as we need that confidence. The first two games are massive.
“We start off with Gloucester on Friday night and there’s no better place to get the season started than at home.
“The way we want to play rugby, the surface at Kingston Park has made a huge difference. You could see that last year with how we played and we just want to carry that on.
“It’s not the biggest ground in the world but when it’s full, there’s nowhere better.”
You have to go back to September 2007 to discover the last time Newcastle Falcons won their opening Aviva Premiership Rugby fixture of a new season, when on that occasion they beat Sale Sharks 33-12 at Kingston Park.
The Falcons beat Harlequins 37-21 in round 22 last season and have not won successive Premiership Rugby encounters for exactly 12 months.
Gloucester Rugby's most recent triumph in an Aviva Premiership Rugby round 1 fixture was 24-5 at home to Bath in 2009, whilst their concluding game in the tournament last season saw them go down 30-50 at Bath in round 22. Gloucester have not won on the road since beating Brive in the European Challenge Cup on January 22.
Newcastle's only victory over Gloucester in their last five meetings in all tournaments was 20-10 at Kingston Park in in round 8 of the Aviva Premiership Rugby last season, whilst Gloucester's only win on Falcons soil since 2008 came in September 2013.
Gloucester forward Tom Savage said: “The extended pre-season has been good to be fair as it has allowed us to look back on last season and move forward as much as we can this campaign.
“Our friendlies were good because with the World Cup going on, a lot of the younger players got a chance to stand up and be counted which they did, so that bodes well for the season.
“There has been a great buzz around the city with Gloucester lucky to be used for the World Cup and we can’t wait to show what we can do now and carry that momentum on.
“Going to Newcastle Falcons is never easy and it all depends on the weather and what it is like up there but they have been good at home so we know it will be a challenge.
“They are keen to push up the table but so are we so it should be a good game.”
Kingston Park, 8pm
Referee: Tom Foley (7th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Andrew Small & Wayne Falla. TMO: Trevor Fisher.