In Simon Hammersley’s latest column for TRU, the Newcastle Falcon discusses their beginning to the campaign, his fellow Premiership full-backs, rotation in a squad and the special East Midlands derby this weekend.
It has been pretty frustrating. We have actually played some good stuff, but have never had an 80-minute performance.
I think we knew going into the season, it was going to be tough when you play Exeter, Saracens and Wasps as well as Leicester away, Worcester away and Sale away, this weekend. None of those are particularly easy games.
We knew we would probably struggle at the start, but the disappointing thing is that we got pretty close to Exeter and got very close to Wasps.
It is probably a good sign that we can get close to these teams, but building on from last season, we sort of thought we could take one victory if not two victories from those games.
We obviously showed (against Wasps) with a few early tries, what we can do in attack. Defensively, we were pretty good apart from off the set-piece. It was also a few individual errors at key times which cost us.
When we keep hold of the ball, we are doing very well, but sometimes we have been lacking a bit of accuracy in the crucial parts of the game. We know when we put it all together like we are meant to, it causes team problems.
At this stage of the season, if you win your next couple of games you probably go from where we are, to being top six. There’s no real panic in the dressing room. It’s just about building on the good stuff we have been doing.
Sale coming up is a big game for both of us. They are usually pretty strong at home. Much like us, Sale have shown some real glimpses of excellence, but maybe haven’t put it together too well for 80 minutes.
They certainly have the skill especially in the backs. They will be dangerous across the park.
For us, it’s more looking at ourselves to try and build on the Wasps performances where we showed good signs and if we can do that, hopefully we can go down there and get the win.
Europe is a great opportunity. A lot of the lads haven’t played in the Champions Cup at all so for us, there is a real excitement about playing Toulon away in our first game. It is not a bad way to start! We just want to enjoy it.
Squad wise, obviously you see a bit more rotation in the Challenge Cup just because teams tend to give their youngsters ago.
It will be a bit more difficult for us. We maybe usually fielded a strong side in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and that might be seen as more of a chance for the academy boys to really show what they’re about this year.
Rotation was a bit of mix for us in a good year last season. Dean [Richards] gave certain players some time off to make sure they come back fully rested and get away from the club.
It is up to his man-management which he is pretty good at because he tries to get the best out of everyone!
Some people love to play week in, week out and other players will play a few games and need a rest. The Champions Cup will be a new challenge for us and Dean will no doubt be focusing on getting that balance right.
Him and Niki [Goneva] offer something pretty completely different to any of the other players in the league. Noti, in particular, had a great game against Wasps and really showed what he can do at his best.
Sinoti Sinoti!!! ?? pic.twitter.com/9nzK30sj5C— ugo monye (@ugomonye) September 28, 2018
You have got Niki who people just can’t seem to tackle and Noti who can step anyone in a telephone box! They are huge for us.
They provide great go forward for us at times when not many other players can do anything. They are game changers and can create something from nothing.
I have always thought Alex was a great player. He is one of the few full-backs who can combine all his skills.
He can play as a first receiver, out wide with his running, under the high ball and he is a good kicker!
His game on the weekend showed his quality. He made five or six clean breaks and set-up a couple of tries. If you give him space, he will dominate games.
He has had a good start to the season. There are some good English full-backs out there! Mike Brown has always been a good player and [Elliot] Daly has been playing there for Wasps.
Even if you look at Worcester, you have Chris Pennell who has been around for a lot of years and he is probably quite underrated considering whenever he plays, he makes a lot of yards and chooses the right decision.
There are a lot of good players and everyone is trying to play their best and see if any international recognition comes.
The injury side of things, you don’t really think of because you wouldn’t play if you thought about it too much.
?? "I can't wait to watch the lads rip in on Saturday at this amazing venue and to see you all there."— ?? Northampton Saints | The Derby@Twickenham, 6 Oct (@SaintsRugby) October 4, 2018
A message of thanks from the man himself, Rob Horne, ahead of The Derby at Twickenham pic.twitter.com/ZE2dpBFwmo
Something like what happened to Rob, will be tough to get over for anyone and it really shows the importance of enjoying yourself when you can and making the most of your career.
The event on Saturday will be fantastic. For Northampton and Leicester to take the game to Twickenham and give the funds to Rob and his family just shows how tight the rugby community is and I hope it will be a great occasion for everyone involved.
Simon Hammersley was talking to TRU’s Chris Heal