When the Premier League season begins, the odds almost always build up against a newly promoted team to avoid relegation.
For the Newcastle Falcons, who returned to the first division after relegation in 2019, these possibilities are arguably more severe as they prepare to start over after a break of more than eight months..
Saturday, March 13: Newcastle beat the Bedford Blues 41-0 at home in the tournament to claim their fifteenth win in the most games of the 2019-20 season.. .
At the time, they were on their way to setting a record 100% to definitively seal their immediate return to the Premier League.
But after just a few days, their season was postponed as the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown began.
Rugby Football Association will soon confirm that it will not resume and the Falcons’ promotion has been confirmed to « Best Standard Formula to Play ».
The decision placed players in an early season hiatus in April – which lasted longer than ever.
In fact, it will be 253 days by the time Dean Richards’ team heads out to face Bath at The Rec on Saturday at lunchtime in their first game of the new Premier League season..
“It gives us great satisfaction to finally get here,” said Rugby Director Richards.. « Instead of being the longest pre-season ever, it was actually for us the longest off-season period ever, followed by a short introductory period..
During the first three to four months of the lockdown, Richards was unable to make any face-to-face contact with his players as the club shut down nearly all of its operations, promptly evacuating the majority of rugby staff even as the Premier League resumed its late season in August..
Team competition nights and social gatherings via Zoom have become the norm rather than the opportunity to roast their promotion in person.
Richards himself used his unexpected leave to revisit his previous career as a police officer, and volunteered with Northumbria Police to prepare personal protective equipment for front row officers.
« In the first four to five months, we couldn’t do anything, » Richards said.. “When people got into the club it was on a part-time basis so it was very difficult to understand the physical form of the players.
“It’s been too long to wait. You have to really raise your hat for the players for the way they handled everything with incredible patience.
“Given our ability to escalate our comeback, we suffered a lot from lower limb and muscle injuries as a result of not being conditioned and then suddenly trying to come back to it..
“It was the worst thing in the past three months. We’ve also seen a lot of that in football and compared notes with a handful of clubs in terms of strength and conditioning.
The Falcons have only played two games since the Spring’s victory over Bedford. Last season’s championship opponents, Ealing Trailers, were ready for opponents in friendly matches on and off home to try to get the team somewhere fast.. .
Among the new additions this season is former Northampton and England midfielder Luther Burrell, who returned to the league after leaving Warrington Wolves in September. .
Mark Wilson has also returned from a season-long loan to Salé, but will miss the start of the season due to a hamstring injury sustained while on duty in England.. .
Newcastle is expected to undergo some tough tests upon its return to the First Division as it faces three of the top five last season in the first three rounds in Bath, Sale and Wasp.
Richards added: « It was a shame to end the championship season the way it happened. ». “At the time, we were playing some great rugby and it was perfect to take that momentum in this season.
« As is the case now, we will have a very difficult period to return to the speed and level reached by the other clubs, which did not end much after ending the previous season..
“But we just have to continue to learn to live with, cope and adapt to the effects of Covid-19.
“Reacting and preparing for it becomes the rule and the sooner he adheres to it, the easier it becomes.
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Newcastle Falcons, Rugby Union, Premiership Rugby, Dean Richards, Premier League, Bath Rugby
World News – Great Britain – How will Newcastle perform after their « longest off-season »?
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