Newcastle keen to do themselves 'justice' and play to 'potential' as they prepare to enter a new chapter

Newcastle will begin a new era under the guidance of Alex Codling next term

Newcastle Falcons are entering a period of transition.

Alex Codling was announced as the club’s new head coach this week, taking over from Dave Walder who stepped down from the position last month.

This, as well as Will Welch's retirement after 15 years at the club, marks the start of a new era for Newcastle. Mark Laycock is in the role of interim head coach before Codling takes over in the summer and admits the club has experienced some "turbulence" due to changes at the top.

Laycock, who confirmed he will remain part of the coaching staff when Codling comes in, said: “We were quite explicit with the lads that there was going to be quite a lot of turbulence with what had happened with Dave stepping back. From what I have experienced [as interim head coach], it is a very dynamic environment which is constantly changing.

"The landscape of the game at the moment would suggest that it is not going to change overnight. Obviously, you have got the World Cup coming up as well which is always a factor in the recruitment and retention of players but we said from day one that throughout this period that we were just going to take it one week at a time and that’s what we’ve done.

"We had a big focus on making every day special for the lads by giving them things to look forward to, drive energy and I think the boys have really bought into that. It’s been a couple of really good training weeks and hopefully that will show in some of the performances in the last three games."

Newcastle are currently sat bottom of the Gallagher Premiership but despite there being no relegation in operation this season, Laycock is eager to move off the foot of the table come the end of the campaign.

That said, he is also focusing on what his squad can control: "To be honest, our focus is a bit more internal at the moment. It’s about putting together performances that us and our fans can be proud of. If we do that then the results will come. We want to do ourselves justice and play to our potential."

Laycock hit the ground running as head coach three weeks ago as he successfully coordinated an impressive win over Gloucester in a performance that ended a losing streak spanning four matches.

Falcons go away to Harlequins this Saturday and Laycock is wise to the threat that his opposition will pose, but is also confident that they can assert themselves as well.

He said: “Quins have an unbelievable attacking threat. It’s something we’ve talked about all week and Mark Wilson has prepped the lads really well over the last couple of days. We know what’s coming with Quins, their identity is strong. We know that 8-9-10-12 axis is massive for how they play and we’ll be doing our best to try and shut that down and impose our game on them.

"Coming towards the end of the season, they’ve got their own ambitions and we’ve got ours so I think it will be a good contest."

At the end of the season, the Falcons will say goodbye to a loyal servant of theirs.  Having earned his debut for the club at the age of 18, Will Welch has made 275 appearances for the team and has decided that this campaign will be his last.

Laycock waxed lyrical about Welch: "You probably can’t put into words how important someone like him is to a rugby club. He was thrust into the captaincy role at 22, which is obviously very young. I’ve known him since he was 15 and I remember going and doing little skill sessions with him at RGS (Royal Grammar School Newcastle).

"He’s a phenomenal human being and a real inspiration and role model to everyone he has come into contact with. He’s very well deserving of a good rest because he has definitely put his body through it for the team. Absolutely heroic in everything he did for the boys. We can’t thank him enough for his contribution to the club.”

With club stalwarts like Welch moving on, it gives young players the opportunity to break into the side as the Falcons start to shape a new era.

While the club boasts the Argentine flair of Mateo Carreras, Matías Orlando and Matías Moroni, Laycock admits promoting from within is something Newcastle have always been advocates of but stresses the emphasis of balance in his team selection.

"If you put a very young and inexperienced side out, it’s going to be a lot tougher but if you put an experienced side out then it’s the other end of the scale. There are lots of pros and cons. Like any team, we want to try and get that balance where we’re giving young lads exposure. Guys like Phil Brantingham and Ollie Fletcher who have had a little bit of exposure this year will have hopefully teed them up well for next year.

"We don’t want to just chuck them in at the deep end and we want to manage expectations."