The season is underway for Newcastle Falcons and their newly appointed head coach Alex Codling started with a straightforward win in the Premiership Cup over Ampthill on Saturday.
With the introduction of Championship sides to the competition for 2023/24, it presents the opportunity for second-tier clubs to pit their wits against those in the top flight but a visit to Ampthill's unique Dillingham Park wouldn't have been an altogether new experience for Codling.
Newcastle is the latest string in his extensive coaching bow having worked in England - in the Championship with Ealing and the National Leagues with Rosslyn Park - as well as in France and at international level.
The former England international believes that his experience in a range of different environments has made him the coach that he is today.
"Having experience in lots of different countries and different leagues helps you develop as a coach," he said. "Having the ability to adapt to different language barriers, levels of experience and facilities has really stood me in good stead.
?? Head Coach Alex Codling is looking ahead to the game, just 10 minutes to go! pic.twitter.com/p3vp2xd2zo— Ealing Trailfinders (@ealingtfrugby) September 24, 2017
“It’s definitely not the traditional route. I am very passionate and I always want to strive to get better so I think that’s partly the reason that I have moved around. I do love challenges and testing myself in lots of different ways.
"As you get older, you use those experiences the best you can. I look back with a great deal of pride but also I’m still striving to get better every day."
Codling moved to the Falcons in the summer having guided French Pro D2 side, Oyannax, to promotion to the Top 14 as their forwards coach. With the World Cup kicking off last week, Codling praises the 'unique' French atmosphere that their fans generate and predicts more of the same throughout the tournament.
He said: "It will be unique. There is enormous expectation and excitement surrounding the tournament. The passion for the game in France is very different. The sirens, the claxons, the smoke, the whole ambience is very different. It’ll be no different for the French team."
Codling, though, will be staying focused on Newcastle and having negotiated the early challenge of Ampthill, his side face more Premiership Cup fixtures before their first match of the Gallagher Premiership season against Bath on October 14th.
He said: "The Premiership Cup is a unique competition in that we are playing teams that we don’t normally play. From my experience of coaching in the Championship, I know how much it will mean to those teams. For us, we’ve got some really talented youngsters from the local area playing in the
group. They’ll get their chance to make the next step in their rugby journey in the coming weeks."
Codling has appointed Callum Chick as club captain for this season and is delighted with how the back-rower is conducting himself in the role. Codling knows Chick well from his time coaching at international level with England.
"Callum epitomises everything around this area. He’s from Newcastle and is a one-club man. He’s very motivated, driven and from a physical perspective, I’m very proud of the changes he’s made in the last 13-14 weeks. He’s played for his country so he knows what the top level looks like."
?????????? ????????????????— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) September 9, 2023
Head coach Alex Codling credited his Newcastle Falcons side as they started the new season with a 40-17 away win at Ampthill.https://t.co/hLEYEU9atQ#TrueNorth pic.twitter.com/d4Re2NS97R
After beginning their campaign with a win on Saturday, Newcastle will welcome another Championship outfit in the form of Bedford Blues to Kingston Park on Friday night as they look to continue building some momentum ahead of the start of the Premiership campaign.
The Falcons finished bottom of the pile last season and Codling says that Newcastle will look to evolve their style over the course of this term in a bid to climb up the table.
"We are going to play in a slightly different way and we are challenging the players in lots of different ways. The one thing I would say is that they have worked incredibly hard over the last 13 weeks and everything we’ve thrown at them, they’ve embraced.
"We’re a new coaching group, new playing group and the Premiership Cup is the next step in terms of building the style that we want to play. We’ve got the Argentina internationals to come back as well as Jamie Blamire and Callum Chick.
"We’ve got experience to come back later but I see that as a positive because there are guys who will get game time over the next few weeks and hopefully they’ll grab those opportunities."
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