Flood hopes to bring ruthless streak to Falcons

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 08:10
Large premiership trophy 800

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Toby Flood is hoping to help give Newcastle Falcons the ruthless streak required to push them further up the Premiership table this season.

The three-time Premiership title winner brings 60 caps worth of international experience to a Falcons squad who last season enjoyed their highest league finish in 11 years, Flood having spent the past nine years with Leicester Tigers and Toulouse.
"It was an easy decision for me to come back, in all honesty, and it's great to be here again," said the 31-year-old. "If you could turn the temperature up another 10 or so degrees I'd be happier because I think I've turned into a soft southerner, but it's great to be back and I'm having a lot of fun.
"Although the buildings and the face of the club probably haven't changed too much, underneath there is a big difference. The Falcons are showing a really positive mind-set, moving in the right direction and I'm enjoying the time I've had here so far.
"I gained a lot of positive experience from my spell at Leicester and learned what it was like to be in that environment where there was an expectation to win things all the time. It was a huge learning curve, every game had a cup final mind-set and to have six years of that was brilliant. In that time we played in five or six major finals, won three Premiership titles and it was a wonderful thing to be part of.
"From there I moved to Toulouse where the rugby was as random as anything, but it was a great experience and a massive opportunity to gain a different perspective on the sport. To now come back to Newcastle with that nine years of experience behind me, I think that puts me in a decent place to offer something here."
Elaborating on the understanding he has gained during his time away from Kingston Park, the former Alnwick and Morpeth junior said: "Preparation is key, and that's one of the things I really learned at Leicester. If you missed a running line, cheated on a rep in the gym or any tiny thing like that you would be made to sit down and watch the boys do it all again. It was all about accountability to the people around you, and that was the culture. It was ran by the players, and that's the biggest learning curve I've had in my career.
"I was spoon fed at Newcastle in the sense that I knew the coaches John Fletcher and Peter Walton really well from the academy, and they really looked after me. That was great, don't get me wrong, but I went to Leicester in a position of responsibility and needed to be personally accountable. If you want to have a strong team the players have to take control of that side of it.
"To win certain games and certain competitions you need to be ruthless in the weeks leading up to it. That's not to say you aren't good mates off the field but when it's business you have to be gritty with one another, and that's where we need to get to. You need that character and desire to win, and it's something that can be learned."
Enjoying the Falcons' free-scoring attack last season, the academy graduate said: "I watched five or six of the Falcons' games towards the back end of last season when I was talking to the club about potentially signing, and spent quite a lot of time talking to Dave Walder about why they were doing certain things, how he sees it and those kind of questions. It was really positive seeing them play with such freedom, and you need to ally that with the ability to grind out a result on a wet afternoon in Gloucester or wherever.
"It will also be great to link up again with people like Niki Goneva. When Niki gets it right he's as good as any wing in the world, and I really mean that. He was absolutely on fire last season, and even when he's having a bad day he's still in the top ten – he's that good. We had a great understanding at Leicester, it's great to hopefully have that again here at Newcastle."
Enjoying his first few weeks under Dean Richards' coaching team, Flood said: "I was lucky enough to play with both Dave Walder and Micky Ward, and I worked with John Wells for England, so I have a good idea of what they're about. It's really exciting to be working with guys of that calibre, and they're very much willing to listen as well as being ruthless when they need to be.
"In terms of your team game plan you have to have total comprehension across the board. You can't just have three or four guys understanding how we have to achieve our aim, and expect those guys to martial everyone else on the field. You need every single player to have an awareness of it, and the great thing with Dave is how efficient and effective he is in making sure the guys know what's required.
"Yes, people like myself can at times talk people through certain things and explain what we want, but Dave has stripped the system back to a point where everyone is fully aware of it. When you're at that point you've got players who are able to make good decisions within a framework, and you are capable of unlocking defences.
"I've only been here for two and a half weeks so it's hard to say too much in a way, but it seems to be looking good. Maxime Mermoz and Sami Mavinga have come over from France, I've hopefully been able to help them a bit on the language side and generally settling in, and we've got a lot of quality throughout the group.
"It was great seeing Mark Wilson get his England recognition last month, which was a real credit to him and the club. I spoke to him about it and he really loved being in that environment – he is keen to do it again and Newcastle are now very much on the radar in terms of having guys genuinely in contention for call-ups. Mark is a proper rugby player and has been a stand-out performer for Newcastle for a long time, and you can build a team around leaders like that. Other players in the squad will see what he is achieving and how he has worked to get there, and there are definitely guys among this group who can get there too in the next 18 months or so."
Asked about goals for the coming campaign the World Cup finalist was reluctant to set a public bar, favouring a step-by-step approach.
"The Falcons last season really set out their stall in being a serious threat to any team in the Premiership, and we could really compete for honours," he stated.
"They key is to use that momentum and keep on looking forward, and it's about getting results. The next step for the club is about being cut-throat in that regard, and that's where we need to make a move.
"We're going away for a training camp in a couple of weeks' time so perhaps we'll get into targets and things a bit more then, but if you want my honest opinion I've never really enjoyed public targets being set. I just think you have to attack every single week, and within your culture should be embedded the firm desire to win every single time you play. That for me is where a team needs to get to, having the genuine self-belief that you can win this game. I truly believe Newcastle can get there – we just need to be ruthless and honest with one another."

There are currently no matches being played
Sat, 24 March 2018
Kings v Treviso 13h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Saracens v Harlequins 15h00 London
London Irish v Gloucester 15h00 Madejski Stadium
Sale Sharks v Worcester Warriors 15h00 AJ Bell Stadium
Stormers v Reds 15h15 Newlands
Cardiff Blues v Ulster 15h15 Cardiff Arms Park
Munster v Scarlets 17h30 Thomond Park
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints 17h30 Kingston Park
Ospreys v Leinster 19h35 Liberty Stadium
Jaguares v Lions 19h40 Estadio Jose Amalfitani
Sun, 25 March 2018
Leicester Tigers v Wasps 15h00 Welford Road
Fri, 30 March 2018
Chiefs v Highlanders 06h35 Hamilton
Rebels v Hurricanes 08h45 Melbourne
Scarlets v La Rochelle 17h30 Parc y Scarlets
Sat, 31 March 2018
Blues v Sharks 06h35 Eden Park
Brumbies v Waratahs 08h45 Canberra
Sat, 24 March 2018
Hurricanes v Highlanders 29 | 12
Sunwolves v Chiefs 10 | 61
Fri, 23 March 2018
Bath v Exeter Chiefs 18 | 20
Dragons v Cheetahs 17 | 29
Glasgow Warriors v Zebre 68 | 7
Connacht v Edinburgh 22 | 29
Rebels v Sharks 46 | 14
Crusaders v Bulls 34 | 14
Mon, 19 March 2018
CUT-Ixias v UCT-Ikeys 23 | 30
Wits v NWU-Pukke 31 | 35
Shimlas v NMMU-Madibaz 28 | 22
UP-Tuks v UJ 30 | 30
Sun, 18 March 2018
Waratahs v Rebels 51 | 27
Sat, 17 March 2018
Jaguares v Reds 7 | 18
Wales v France 14 | 13
Team P W D L Pts
Exeter Chiefs 18 13 0 5 65
Wasps 17 11 1 5 54
Saracens 17 11 0 6 53
Newcastle Falcons 17 11 0 6 50
Leicester Tigers 17 10 0 7 47
Bath 18 9 0 9 46
Gloucester 17 9 1 7 46
Sale Sharks 17 8 0 9 43
Harlequins 17 7 0 10 36
Northampton Saints 17 6 0 11 31
Worcester Warriors 17 5 0 12 27
London Irish 17 2 0 15 15