Richards' Falcons face bright season
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Newcastle Falcons' Director of Rugby Dean Richards insists his side have a bright Premiership season ahead of them.
Richards' side lost by a point to both Wasps and Worcester Warriors, as well as further narrow defeats to London Irish and a draw with Sharks last season.
That contributed to an 11th-place finish which, by Richards' own admission, was below what they expected.
However, with the vast majority of core players retained, not to mention Olympic silver-medalist Marcus Watson returning full of confidence after a stunning showing in Rio, Richards believes they have the potential to kick on.
"We have not nailed those small margins last year, but when we do - which will hopefully be this year, we will get quite a few more wins," said the 53-year-old Richard.
"We were disappointed because there were so many games that we missed out on by just a few points and it is fine lines in the Premiership.
"Once you get to grips with those, you can advance reasonably far up the ladder. It is about coming to terms with those and understanding those fine margins and nailing it.
"If we do that we will go up the ladder a bit more than we did this year; we were disappointed with where we finished.
"We have shown we can slug it out with the better teams in the league, but it is about doing that on a more consistent basis and winning those tight games which can go either way and are decided by small margins."
With new signings, Niki Goneva, Evan Olmstead, Kyle Cooper, Ben Sowrey, Opeti Fonua arriving at the club, Richards believes a renewed competition for places can help turn slim loses into wins and help drive Falcons up the table.
The Falcons welcome to Sale to Kingston Park on the Premiership's opening night and after two tough results against the Sharks last season, Richards is preparing his men for a huge game.
"Goneva is looking outstanding and in Olmstead, Cooper, Sowrey and Fonua, we have a host of players who have come in and improved the squad. There is far more competition for places this year," Richards said.
"Sale is a difficult side to beat, we should have beaten them at their place last year and they were comfortable winners at our place.
"We know that we can beat them, but each side has to produce the goods on the day and both teams are aware that they will lose if they don't turn up on the day.
"It will be an interesting duel on the day.
"They have supplemented their squad with people like AJ MacGinty and Mike Phillips, two very good players, so although they might look a little bit weaker with the loss of Danny Cipriani, they certainly are not."