As he prepares to play his 100th Aviva Premiership game on Friday Newcastle Falcons try machine Vereniki Goneva believes his current side can get one over his former employers.
The Fijian flyer spent four seasons as a Leicester Tiger, helping them win the Aviva Premiership title, and has proved similarly prolific in Newcastle colours since joining in the summer of 2016.
The 34-year-old has plundered 51 tries in his 99 Premiership appearances for both clubs, sitting third in this season’s try-scoring chart with 11 touchdowns in his 17 league outings.
And as his fourth-placed Falcons prepare to visit fifth-placed Tigers in the penultimate round of the regular season, Goneva insists a first Welford Road triumph in more than 20 years is more than a mere possibility.
“Leicester will be up for the game, it’s a huge night for them, and that means some added pressure for their players,” said the winger, who recently signed a new contract to extend his stay in the North East.
“A few years ago Leicester v Newcastle would have been a top end of the table versus bottom end of the table game, but the Falcons are above them in the league at the moment and it’s a totally different situation from what they’re used to.
“As much as we’re sat here thinking it’s a big game because it’s Leicester, they’ll be thinking it’s a big game because it’s Newcastle. That hasn’t always been the case over the years, and they’ll be looking at us knowing they’re in for a tough night.”
Relishing the prospect of returning to a venue at which he was a crowd favourite, Goneva added: “I always look forward to going back to Leicester.
“It’s a good place, I enjoyed my time there and the people are very welcoming towards me. I really appreciate that, and it’s great to be going back down there with a strong Newcastle team in a game with so much riding on it.
“Welford Road is a different ground and it will be noisy on Friday, but we’re looking forward to that. The belief is still there among the boys, we’ve been working very hard this week and everyone is up for the challenge.”
Convinced his Falcons side can bounce back from last weekend’s European Challenge Cup semi-final loss at Gloucester, the interception specialist said: “I watched the game on the TV and I thought the boys played well in some parts. We had lots of opportunities but full credit to Gloucester, and we move on to the next game now.
“It’s still a very positive environment here, we’re in the Premiership top four and we’ve had a lot of good games this season. We’ve lost a couple of semi-finals but we can still achieve something in the league, and a top-four finish is in our sights.”