Falcons focus on forwards in Anglo Welsh Cup

Newcastle assistant coach Stuart Grimes has laid down the challenge to his Falcons pack, ahead of Sunday’s Anglo Welsh LV= Cup visit of Harlequins to Kingston Park (kick-off 3pm).

Having seen his side concede a hat-trick of second-half tries from driving mauls in defeat to Worcester last weekend, the Scotland great wasted no time in highlighting the areas for improvement.

“From a forward coach’s perspective last weekend went pretty badly on the whole, although there were some positives to take away,” said Grimes.

“The scrum was very good, the line out on our own throw went okay but defensively we conceded three tries from line outs which is obviously not acceptable.

“From that point of view I wasn’t too happy, but elsewhere in the game we felt as if we competed really well. The boys acquitted themselves strongly in a number of areas, but the driving maul reared its ugly head again and we let ourselves down in terms of how we dealt with it.”

Having made 12 changes to their team for the Sixways clash, Grimes insisted: “It wasn’t necessarily a case of going from a first string to a second string team, it was just an opportunity to give game time to some guys who have been working hard in training and who have narrowly missed out on selection for the Guinness Premiership matches.

“It was a golden opportunity for those boys, but unfortunately some of them probably didn’t quite take it. From a coaching point of view that is disappointing, but we’ll be looking to make amends this Sunday at home to Harlequins.”

Taking time to praise one especially positive contributor, Grimes hailed the efforts of Blaydon openside Mark Wilson, despite earning a yellow card on his maiden first team outing.

“For a debut game I thought Mark was outstanding,” he said.

“He did exactly what you want as a forwards coach, working hard, getting to the breakdown quickly and fighting for the ball. He carried well, offered himself a lot and, on the whole, he was one of our best players that day.

“It’s great to see guys coming through the system, but it’s Mark who deserves all the credit because he’s worked extremely hard and really taken his chance. He battled hard for the cause all afternoon, we were really pleased with how he went and it is always good to get those first-game nerves out of the way too.

“I felt as if he was extremely unfortunate to get sin-binned in the first half. The ref said he had came in from the side, but I’ve watched it a number of times and I thought he came in through the gate. You could argue it was one of those debatable 50-50 calls in terms of being a penalty or not, but to get a yellow card too I felt was really unlucky.”

With semi-final qualification still a realistic target despite defeat last weekend, Grimes said of the LV= Cup campaign: “Some clubs see this competition as the quickest route into Europe, whereas some others may have prioritised other tournaments to concentrate their playing resources on.

“There are different ways of going about it, and it just depends on your individual risk profile as to which way you go.”

Turning attention to this Sunday’s challenge, the Scot said: “Quins had a few guys missing last weekend when they drew with the Scarlets, although in fairness most of those were due to injuries or international call-ups.

“That aside it was pretty much their strongest XV, and we’ve no reason to suggest it will be anything other than that when they come up here on Sunday. Regardless of who they put out it will still be a tough assignment against some very good players, because they have a quality squad down there with plenty of talent right throughout.

“We played them in late September up here in the league, and the boys were really disappointed to draw in the end having led for much of the game.

“That match was at a different time when Quins seemed to be under much more pre

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