Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rugby Union: Falcons Set to Bring in New Faces; Heat Is on as Newcastle Slide

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rugby Union: Falcons Set to Bring in New Faces; Heat Is on as Newcastle Slide

Article excerpt

Byline: Alan Hedley

NEWCASTLE director of rugby John Fletcher isn't ruling out more big-name signings before the end of an increasingly fraught season.

Out of the EDF Cup, facing an uphill task to qualify for the quarterfinals of the European Challenge Cup and currently ninth in the Guinness Premiership, Newcastle are in a slump.

They've lost their last four games in the Premiership and on Sunday face third-top Saracens, one of the form sides in the league, at Vicarage Road.

Lose that one - and Newcastle have lost their last ten away from home in the Premiership - and the pressure on Fletcher and his players will increase considerably.

Already fitness coach Steve Black has gone and reports persist of a move south for England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, whose contract ends in May.

Newcastle are likely to lose Wilkinson, Toby Flood, Mathew Tait and Jamie Noon to England's Six Nations cause early in the new year and when they go, the Falcons squad always looks stretched.

Fletcher's major signing this season, Carl Hayman, has certainly raised the stakes and there's no doubt Newcastle's pack are a force now but results are not being delivered and they need to be soon.

Fletcher says it's all about confidence and "very small margins" but he does concede that he may need to step into the market for more players. "We understand where we are in terms of our own development as a club and everyone is buying in to it," he said.

"I had a long chat with Dean Ryan after the game last weekend and we talked at length about development and taking clubs on to the next stage of their evolution, as he has done so well with Gloucester.

"I don't think we're that far away from turning good performances into consistently winning performances.

"A big part of it is confidence, playing together, recruitment and occasionally the referee deciding to hold his hand out on the black side rather than the red side. It's small margins, but then that's what professional sport is all about.

"I'm very focused. I know where we are, I know where we want to go, how we are going to develop the team, who we want to recruit and I'm excited about what can happen at this club going forward. …

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