Newcastle Falcons captain Will Welch says Newcastle Falcons and their supporters should be excited about the prospect of playing Heineken Champions Cup rugby for the first time in 14 seasons.
Kingston Park Stadium will get a taste of the continent’s top-tier competition on Sunday October 21 when French giants Montpellier are the visitors, Newcastle getting their campaign underway in Toulon this coming Sunday.
“It’s great for the club to be back in the Heineken Champions Cup,” said Welch, who is yet to play in the tournament despite having made well over 200 appearances for his home town team.
“There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of intensity and every single game is a huge battle. As players you want to be in that environment, it’s taken us a while to get there and we want to make sure we give it our best shot.”
Sports fans on Tyneside should not miss this opportunity to sample a major step up from the European Challenge Cup, Welch saying: “It’s something different, and as much as we love the Premiership it’s great to have this opportunity to play in these massive games against teams from different nations. Everyone in the club is really up for it.
“European rugby is completely different to the Premiership, it’s new stadiums and different atmospheres, and we’re embracing that challenge.”
The Falcons are pooled with Edinburgh as well as Toulon and Montpellier, Welch licking his lips at the prospect of six colossal battles.
“If you look at every single group they’re just full of quality teams, and the intensity will go through the roof,” said the skipper.
“I’ve never played in it yet, personally, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. The finals are in Newcastle this season, too, which puts yet another slant on things.
“People talk about our two French trips, understandably so because they’ll be great, but for me I think the back-to-back games against Edinburgh in December will both be great occasions.
“Edinburgh is probably the nearest thing we get to a local derby with being so far north in the Premiership, and for the fans of both teams they’re pretty accessible away games, which again will contribute to the atmosphere.”
Tickets for Newcastle Falcons v Montpellier on Sunday October 21 (1pm) can be bought by clicking here.