Maintaining a high tempo holds the key for Newcastle Falcons this season, says fly-half Toby Flood.
The 60-times-capped England international has played in two of the Falcons’ three Championship Cup games in the lead-up to Saturday’s Greene King IPA Championship opener at London Scottish, his side defeating Jersey, Doncaster and Hartpury to sit on top of their group.
Running in 19 tries and conceding just three in the course of those three games, Flood said: “We travelled to Jersey on the day and probably left our lungs there, with having had no pre-season games.
“We had a long stretch of pre-season training due to the Rugby World Cup but no amount of training prepares you for that match intensity, and we were a bit upset with how we played if we’re totally honest about it.
“The next two games against Doncaster and Hartpury were better, we broke the 50-point barrier on both occasions and everyone has pretty much had a game, so overall we don’t feel like we’re in bad shape for the start of the league programme. The squad have been well managed by the coaches in terms of who has had what game time, and we’re in a good place as a group.”
On the quest for a quick tempo, the Northumbrian added: “We want to play the game at a high pace, and we feel at this level that we can cause teams a lot of problems if we do generate that speed in our play.
“Allied to that is our decision-making under pressure, and that speed of thinking makes it a lot harder for defences to cope with what we’re doing. We want to be the guys dictating what happens and enforcing the tempo, which in turn brings disjointed defences and more opportunities to score tries.”
Well aware that the coming campaign requires complete focus and that his team will be tested, Flood said: “The Championship seems like it has really evolved over the last few years, and I’ve been impressed by the physicality of the teams we’ve played against.
“London Scottish will be tough because they’ve got size and experience in their group, and we’re absolutely not dismissing their challenge. They’ll have a decent crowd in and they’ll want to lay down a marker for the league season, so we’ve got to be up to that challenge.
“People on the outside have referred to our three cup games as ‘pre-season’, so in that sense I guess the real season starts now.
“It’s a chance for us to go away and test the water, put a benchmark down for the season and hopefully send a message around the division. This game has been a long time coming because pre-season feels like it has gone on forever, but the nice thing now is that we’re properly into it.”