December 24 2004
Newcastle Falcons director of rugby, Rob Andrew, has insisted that there will be no Christmas gifts on offer at Headingley on Monday, as his side travel south to face Leeds Tykes in the Zurich Premiership.
Andrew's men came up with a 29-16 win over the Yorkshiremen when the sides met last month at Kingston Park, but going into the return match, he said: "Leeds are not a bad side, and they've got some good players.
"What we learnt from earlier in the season is that they will try and frustrate us, and it took us a while to get clear of them, but when we did I thought we caused a lot of problems with our pace, which is what we have to generate again."
Andrew is without the injured trio of Mark Mayerhofler (leg), Michael Stephenson (hamstring) and Luke Gross (shoulder) after last weekend's narrow Poweren Cup defeat at Saracens, and said of Mayerhofler's injury to the leg which he broke earlier in the season: " Unfortunately Micky Ward managed to run over him and then fall on him.
"He's having another scan, but we don't think there's a major problem, and he may have just damaged some of the scar tissue around the original break. We're not overly worried about it, but he's not right, so Epi comes into the side.
"Luke took a bang in training on Wednesday, although he should be okay, and Stevo is just out mainly as a precaution."
Of the lessons learnt from last weekend's match, which saw his side trail 17-0 at one point, Andrew said: "We feel as a front five we really didn't deliver in the first, and the players needed to take a close look at themselves, which they have done this week. They'll be fine, but it was just a very poor first 25 minutes, which left us in a hole for the rest of the game."
England captain Jonny Wilkinson is once again named on the bench as Dave Walder starts, with Andrew saying: "It will probably be one more week for Jonny if he comes through Monday, and he's raring to go.
"If he had his own way he would be in the starting XV for this game, but we have to consider Jonny, Dave and Newcastle Falcons in all of this. Dave is playing very well, and certainly he wasn't at fault for what happened in the first half at Saracens, so he was very disappointed to come off at half time.
"The chances are we will just get Jonny back to 100 per cent, raring to go, and then he'll be away with England, at which point we'll be turning to Dave and saying �well, you dig us out of this one for the next few weeks', so we've all got to be aware of our responsibilities to the club as a whole, and we're managing that situation."
Andrew is hoping for an injection of pace from his fleet-footed side at Headingley, saying ahead of the match: "We saw last week against Saracens, where as soon as we introduced energy into the game the team was just transformed, and the forwards and backs operated at a different level in that second half.
"If we concentrate on doing what we do well for a whole game, I'm not sure there's anyone who can beat us. What we're not doing is applying that pace for consistent periods of games.
"We've gone from the sublime to the ridiculous in the same game, side by side, and we've just got to cut it out. If we can manage to be mentally strong and do that then we will be a very, very good side, and I honestly think it's coming.
"I think we've come a long way this season, and for the first time in about four years we can sit and look at a squad which is capable of winning in every game it plays. We might have said it in the past, but I'm not sure how many believed it, because we didn't have the depth of players. We do now.
"I just feel now that we are in a position where, if we focus on what we can do well, I don't think many sides can live with us."