Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

We Want the Best! Heineken Cup Dream Is Still Alive but Not at All Costs

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

We Want the Best! Heineken Cup Dream Is Still Alive but Not at All Costs

Article excerpt


STEVE Bates believes Newcastle Falcons will always strive for Heineken Cup qualification - but admits it may take several years yet to build a side capable of consistently competing with Europe's elite.

The Falcons entertain Cardiff Blues at Kingston Park in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final on Sunday (kick-off 3pm), where victory would leave them two wins from Heineken qualification.

Rob Miller's move to Sale was confirmed yesterday, along with lock Mark Sorenson's already-expected summer switch to Northampton.

With these two confirmations adding to the blow of losing skipper and pack cornerstone Carl Hayman to moneybags Toulon, Bates was keen to stress he is making progress on the recruitment front.

Admitting the credit crunch has forced the Falcons to put prudence over speculation, Falcons rugby director Bates said balancing ambition with sensibility is their hardest job.

Refusing to measure the success of the season by Heineken Cup qualification, Bates said: "We will always strive to qualify for that competition, that will never change.

"But in the current economic climate that will prove to be a very big challenge to be seriously competitive in that competition as well as the others during a whole campaign as things stand.

"Our challenge is to make ourselves a side and a squad that is robust and competitive enough to achieve that, but it's about building the resources up to the point where that is achievable.

"We are clearly ot at that stage now, but that doesn't mean that we would shy away from the challenge next season. If we qualify for the Heineken Cup for next term then the players would relish that, and they would grow from embracing the experience.

"But there's no doubting it would be one huge challenge for everyone at the club. Qualifying for the tournament has been one of our season-long goals, and we'd still love to do that - but qualifying for it for one season does not automatically make you the kind of side that will do that week-in, week-out. …

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