Callum Chick says Newcastle Falcons’ back-row depth is driving a healthy competition for places among the squad going into Sunday’s crucial home date with promotion challengers Cornish Pirates.
The 3pm Kingston Park kick-off sees the unbeaten league leaders playing host to their third-placed rivals, with Ponteland product Chick having played in 15 of their 18 outings this season.
Battling for a place in the match-day 23 with a host of seasoned campaigners and promising academy talent, the 23-year-old said: “There are lots of back-rowers here who are top-quality so it’s sometimes tough getting game time, and you have to take your opportunities when they come.
“It’s good because it means if anyone has a bad week then there’s someone else waiting to come in, and it pushes you to stay on top of your game all the time.
“It must be hard for the coaches because on the one hand they need to be making sure people get enough game time so that they’re ready to go when they’re really needed, but when guys are starting and playing well it’s hard to leave them out.
“We’ve also got a load of young back-rowers at the club who are really talented and probably don’t have a huge amount of opportunity to get minutes under their belt, and those guys have gone really well during the games we’ve had against the Scottish Super6 sides.
“There’s certainly a wealth of talent at the club in that area of the team, though, and that has to be a positive thing.”
Expecting a stern test from a Pirates side who were beaten 18-9 when the Falcons travelled to Penzance, Chick said: “Cornish Pirates are a very competitive team who have gone well in this league for a number of years now, and they gave us a really tough game back in October.
“They have a good forward pack and some strong backs as well, but if we front up in those forward exchanges it will hopefully take away their main strength. That’s the plan, and if we earn that right to play then hopefully we’ll be able to score some tries and entertain the crowd on the back of that dominance.
“The analysis has shown that when you keep hold of the ball for more than five phases in this league then teams have a big drop-off in defence, and there’s more scoring opportunities or penalties awarded.
“It all starts with that physical battle, as with any rugby game, and there’s a big onus on our carriers to punch holes and generate that go-forward which will enable us to move the ball to the width.
“Playing at home is another factor, too, because the boys just love going out at Kingston Park.
“Our fans are great with us, they make it a really good atmosphere and we just want to keep getting the wins on board for the people who have come out and backed us.”
Coming into the game on the back of a 26-5 triumph at Hartpury last weekend, the former Under-20s World Cup winner added: “The weather was pretty tough but I thought we put in a good professional performance, and the main thing was just getting another bonus-point victory to keep us on course for promotion.
“We’re not being complacent because we know each individual game still needs to be won, and we’re holding ourselves to a higher standard. We’re comparing our performance levels to Premiership markers, and we know there are certain things we need to work on if we want to keep growing as a team.”
Tickets for Sunday’s 3pm kick-off are on sale now, and also include entry into the Falcons Women v Exeter Chiefs Women game at 11.30am. To book click here, call 0871 226 6060 or visit Kingston Park Stadium in person. Book before game day to avoid the £3 per ticket surcharge.