Toby Flood says Newcastle Falcons must carry their early-season form into the European Challenge Cup as they prepare for Saturday’s visit of Welsh side, Dragons.
The 60-times-capped England international is in contention for the first competitive start of his second spell at the club as the Falcons look to build on a solid start to the Aviva Premiership, one which has seen them winning four of their six games and taking a bonus point in defeat to champions Exeter Chiefs last weekend.
Determined for the Falcons not to slow down during the European fortnight, Flood said: “The big danger for us is that we switch off because we’re sat here thinking we’ve got ourselves into a good position in the Premiership.
“We can’t fall into the trap of thinking let’s just get through these two European games and see where we are come the Leicester match, because that’s when complacency creeps in. We just need to go all-out in the Challenge Cup games, get it right on the field and take that momentum back into the Premiership.
“If you look back we’re in a pretty good position in the Premiership with four wins from six and being in the top four in the division, but it’s still early days. If we don’t perform during the next part of the season we’ll be chasing ourselves a little, and it comes down to making sure we keep it going.
“This time of the season things can be a little bit stop-start with chopping between three different competitions, and we need to remain switched-on the whole time. What we can’t do is take our foot off the gas in Europe – we need to keep the momentum going and make sure we go into that Leicester game with two decent wins behind us.”
Pooled with Dragons, French side Bordeaux-Begles and Russian club Enisei-STM for six home-and-away matches, the five group winners and three best runners-up will progress through to the quarter-finals of a competition the Falcons have never won.
“The way the European Challenge Cup is structured means that if you don’t get the first two weeks right you can struggle, and find yourself in a bit of a hole,” said the three-time Premiership champion.
“That in itself means you’re almost into knock-out rugby straightaway, and that increases the intensity of the players, the crowd and as a result the pressure on the match officials. All of that wrapped into one means we have to make sure we’re on it from the start, and that buzz in the crowd can really lift us. We’ve got to make sure we manage that first 20 minutes, and if we can do that we’ve potentially got a chance in this competition in terms of heading off to Bordeaux next weekend in a good position.”
Photo credit: Newcastle Falcons’ official website