Saints coach West won’t make excuses ahead of Newcastle clash

Dorian West (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Dorian West (picture: Sharon Lucey)

When it comes to teams you want to face during an international period, Newcastle Falcons would be close to the bottom of the list.

But unfortunately for Saints, both of their Aviva Premiership matches against the club from Kingston Park have fallen at the worst times possible.

Jim Mallinder’s men hosted the Falcons during the autumn internationals in November, meaning marquee players Louis Picamoles and George North, as well as the England contingent, were away.

Saints lost that game 22-16 and now here they are again, travelling to Newcastle on Sunday during the Six Nations, meaning star names will again be absent.

Meanwhile, the Falcons are largely unruffled as they have a solid squad with few international stars.

They have developed into a team to be feared on their own turf, with the likes of Harlequins and Bath having lost at Kingston Park this season.

But though he acknowledges this is far from a favourable time to be facing the Falcons, Saints forwards coach Dorian West insists his side can not afford to make any excuses this week.

Especially after the gut-wrenching defeat at Bath last Friday and because of the fact that if Saints lose, they could find themselves as low as ninth in the league standings come Sunday evening.

“Newcastle are a much improved side,” West said. “They’ve won some games this season that they probably wouldn’t have won before and they play some good rugby.

“They are a dangerous team and they put up a good show (in the 26-24 defeat) against Sale last week.

“We expect them to be full on and they will have confidence behind them, having beaten us here earlier in the season.”

And on facing the Falcons during the international window once again, West said: “That’s how it is. It’s one of those things.

“You hopefully play against teams who are losing the same amount of players as you and that was probably the case in our game at Bath last week, but that doesn’t matter.

“We know the situation at the start of the season when we get our squad together and we need to make sure we go to Newcastle and give a good account of ourselves.”

Saints’ second-half showing at Bath last week was largely positive, with the away side storming back from 22-9 down to lead on two occasions before losing 32-30 with the final kick of the game.

And West said: “We did a lot of good things.

“Some of our rugby was really good and we caused a lot of problems for Bath.

“There were quite a few decisions that went against us that we look back at now.

“Our objective is to make sure we minimise the mistakes we make in a game and if we’d have been a bit tighter in defence and better with our exits we probably would have won that game.

“Our focus has been to tidy up those areas of the game and improve at Newcastle.”

Saints have already won at Kingston Park this season, beating Newcastle 24-16 in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

And West said: “It’s traditionally a difficult place to go and play.

“They’ve had a new pitch up there, which has made a difference, and obviously they’re more used to playing on those surfaces than us.

“The management up there have done a really good job and we’re going to have to be at our best if we’re going to beat them.”