Scrum-half Michael Young says Newcastle Falcons are excited by stepping up to Heineken Champions Cup rugby as they prepare to open their account in Toulon on Sunday.
The Falcons are playing in Europe’s top-tier competition for the first time in 14 seasons, and with the final being held at St James’ Park in May there is an added incentive to get off to a flyer.
“Coming through the youth set-up here, to now be playing Champions Cup rugby for the Falcons is an absolutely amazing feeling,” said the Hartlepool native, who is in line for his 39th European appearance if selected for the opening round.
“I think a big part of us being in the Champions Cup is trying to reward the fans who have not been able to watch us in this competition for 14 years now.
“It’s a great occasion for the lads who will be involved in the game, but also for the supporters. To have a trip to Toulon and then Montpellier at home on October 21 is a great way to start, and I hope our fans will enjoy watching us make that step up into the top-level competition.”
Looking to use Europe as a means by which to re-calibrate after a testing start to the Gallagher Premiership season, Young said: “Our results this season have been very disappointing, and let’s not try to sugar-coat that, but the Champions Cup is a chance for us to park that for a few weeks and make a bit of a fresh start.
“We can progress as a team during this next window, and the boys are certainly working hard. The coaches likewise are doing an incredible job in preparing the team, and we just need to turn those small margins our way when we’re playing in such tight games.”
Aware of the spectacle which awaits his side on the French Riviera this weekend, the former Leicester and Bath man added: “Toulon is an incredible place to watch rugby, and I went there with Leicester for the quarter-finals in 2013, one of the years when Toulon won the competition.
“I was a non-playing reserve on that occasion but the atmosphere was fantastic, and if you add a few hundred travelling Geordies to that it will be even better on the weekend. They have the bloke on the microphone geeing up a very vocal home crowd, and it’s just great to be a part of something like that.
“We know we’re capable of playing at this level of rugby, and we’re determined to enjoy it.”
Toulon themselves have not made a flying start to the French domestic season, the three-time Champions Cup winners sitting third-bottom of the Top 14 after winning only two of their seven games.
“Toulon have always had a massive level of physicality, and they have stardust in pretty much every position,” said Young.
“It’ll certainly be different over there. They play with a flair which we’re probably not used to so much in the Premiership, which in some ways arguably works in our favour, but we just need to make sure we do our own jobs rather than focusing too much on that.
“They haven’t got a huge amount of structure compared to some teams and they rely on individual brilliance, but they’ve got a lot of top-quality players who are able to make it happen for them. They like to run from almost anywhere, they’re big on the counter-attack but we just have to back ourselves and stick to what we’re good at.
“We have some brilliant players in our own team who are capable of good things, and this is a great chance to express ourselves and get back to the performance levels we know we’re capable of.”
Newcastle Falcons’ next home game is the Heineken Champions Cup visit of Montpellier on Sunday October 21. To book tickets for the 1pm kick-off at Kingston Park Stadium please click here or call 0871 226 6060.