Newcastle Falcons head coach Alex Codling insists he has the ‘toughest job’ in the Gallagher Premiership as he prepares his side for Friday’s clash away to Sale Sharks.
Written by Mark Stevens, PPA Sports Content exclusively for RUCK.
Winless from five starts so far this season, it’s been a testing opening block for the North East outfit, who sit at the foot of the standings with just two points.
Last Sunday’s 50-12 home drubbing by defending champions Saracens was the latest setback for the Falcons who, according to their leader, are performing much better than results have shown.
“If you look at the season so far, it’s been lots of near misses,” admitted Codling, who moved to Kingston Park last summer from French outfit, Oyonnax. “That said, we should have won two games [against Gloucester and Northampton], which we didn’t. Ultimately, that has changed the dynamics both within and outside.
“Sunday [against Saracens] was a tough day at the office. We were up against a quality team, champions last season, but we’re going to have those bumps in the road. The situation at the club is well documented, but the great thing for this area is the club is still in existence. Ultimately, you have to live within your means. It makes it challenging at times for all of us, but it is what it is. The biggest thing for me and for the players is to have those experiences – however tough they are – and learn from them.
“As a group, the biggest challenge for us is to start making better decisions, be more accurate, as well as be more disciplined, because as you saw on Sunday, against a top team like Saracens – and Sale are no different – if you make errors, you will get punished.
“Last weekend was hugely disappointing, I’m not going to hide away from that, but as tough as it was, you have to go through those experiences sometimes. The challenge on Friday is just as big!”
Up against a Sharks outfit that Codling acknowledges is amongst the best in the division, he is hopeful that lessons have been learnt and that his team can perform to a level he knows they are capable of.
“It’s a massive job I have here,” said Codling. “It’s the toughest in all of the Premiership by an absolute mile. I respect the club have to make decisions and with that come challenges, some of those challenges take time to overcome, some are easy fixes. We have made changes straight away, which have made a difference, but some others are going to take longer.
“We can’t change that, it’s tough. We dominated the first 15 mins again last week. Statistically, we are the best team to start games in the Premiership believe it or not, but we have two big challenges. One is when we lose momentum, how do we get it back? The other is when we are under pressure, how do we resist that pressure?
“We have a habit at the moment of compounding errors which, against the top teams, you’ll get punished, that’s rugby at the end of the day. You have to front up and I never shy away from a challenge, I never have done. As I said, it’s a massive challenge and we take each day as it comes. We look at short-term, medium-term and long-term. The long-term is the likes of Ben Redshaw who starts on Friday at full-back. He’s the future of this club, along with many others.
“In the short-term, we have the likes of Mateo [Carreras] leaving. It’s inevitable, he’s a world class player, the club have done everything they can to keep him, but as you would expect he has had offers from all round the world and he has decided to move. What I would say is, he leaves a legacy at the club and he has made a massive impact at the club.
“That in a sense is what is going to happen at the club. That’s not me being negative, it’s the challenge and it’s about getting the balance from the top all the way down. For all of us, it’s a constant and daily challenge. Decisions will be made, some of them will be the right ones, some won’t be, the idea is to make as many positive ones as you can and the idea is not to shy away from the challenge.”
Certainly the Falcons are looking to the future and with the emergence of talent such as Redshaw, Guy Pepper and Ian Stephens to name but a few, Codling is excited at what can be achieved in the long term.
“As a blueprint going forward, the club has to keep all of its youngsters,” added Codling. “They are the key to everything moving forward. They know the area, they love the club, they have affinity, and it’s what you build a culture around.
“The thing that Exeter have done very well in that respect is a lot of those young guys have been around the system for a while. They understand the club and the culture, whereas we are starting from afresh. It doesn’t matter what business you are in, whether it’s the city or any walk of life, too much change is never good. We have to start somewhere and we need to build the club around them. When we get to that point, you will see a real difference in two or three years’ time.”