Owen: Falcons have the wind in their sails

Tuesday 25 February 2020

High winds will not be allowed to blow Newcastle Falcons’ promotion charge off-course at Jersey this Saturday, says centre Gareth Owen, as the Championship leaders take their 20-game winning streak to the Channel Islands.

Winds in the region of 50mph have been forecast for the 3pm kick-off at Stade Santander International, where the Falcons will be looking to record their fourth victory of the season against the Reds.

“It’ll be confrontational over there and the weather forecast isn’t very good, so it’s a tough ask,” said Owen, who joined last summer from Leicester Tigers after previous spells with Scarlets and Ospreys.

“We have to have the right game plan and attitude to cope with the high winds that have been predicted, although we’ve had our fair share of practice with some of the weather we’ve had in recent weeks.

“Playing in winds like that does mean you need to adapt your game, and it’s a big factor in what you’re able to do. It’s a case of how we’re able to do that, and trying to impose our physicality when the handling and kicking side of things becomes that much more difficult.

“Having played in Wales for so long I’m used to bad weather, and if anything it’s probably a bit dryer up here in Newcastle!”

Jersey are currently sixth in the Championship table with six wins from their 13 games, but have lost only two of their seven league encounters on home soil.

Insisting the 1,000-mile round trip cannot be used as an excuse for the flying Falcons, Owen said: “I don’t think the distance is really a factor, to be honest.

“We travel all over the country as it is, and with having played in the Pro 14 for a lot of years before moving to England I’m used to getting on a plane every couple of weeks for an away game. It’s a direct flight so we’ll be there in just over an hour, and so that side of things isn’t an issue at all for the team.

“Jersey are going to be well up for it with being at home, and they’ll bring that physicality as you’d expect.

“They feel their home ground is a fortress for them, we’ve played them a few times this season and it’s just down to us to try and nullify their threats.”

Boosted by a strong away following, the centre says the Falcons will be looking to themselves rather than their opponents as they return to a venue where they enjoyed a 21-8 victory on the opening day of the season in mid-September.

“The onus is with the lads to impose our own pattern onto the game, and in that sense not worry too much about what the opposition are doing,” said Owen, who has made nine appearances this season.

“We’re doing our analysis on them, of course, and looking to pick up any traits of theirs that we can exploit. But most of what we’re doing this season is about what we can bring to the game rather than what the opposition does.

“They’ll go hard at the breakdown and go hard at us upfront – all the usual stuff you’d expect, really. It’ll definitely be a tough game, but it’s one we’re looking forward to.”

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