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Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards insists his squad is big enough to cope with their upcoming European games.
Richards is set to rest some of his stars when they travel to Grenoble – who have lost all four of their European Rugby Challenge Cup ties – on Friday night.
The Falcons are third in Pool 2, but trail second-placed Lyon by just a point.
“I have got a few boys who need a rest, a few who are injured and a few who need some rugby, so the side won’t be the same in Grenoble,” Richards said.
“Having said that, there is belief throughout the whole squad, as we saw against Bath when the replacements came on and carried us home.”
Falcons fly-half Joel Hodgson has been in stunning form in recent weeks for his hometown region. And Richards has praised the 24-year-old ahead of the Grenoble clash.
“Joel is a local boy who went away for a couple of years and has matured massively,” Richards added.
“He understands the game incredibly well, he is a leader in his own right and when he speaks to the boys, they listen to him.
“You can have all of that but you have still got to back it up with your play and he is very much doing that.”
While Pool 2 basement boys Grenoble are struggling in the Top 14, the Falcons have only won once in four European games. That said, Richards feels they are getting better.
“We have improved each season and this season I feel we have only improved a little bit, but that little bit is the difference between winning and losing,” he said. “It makes a big difference.”
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A late show for Grenoble earned them their first points in Pool 2 to leave Newcastle Falcons’ European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final hopes hanging by a thread.
It was nip and tuck in the first-half, as Newcastle edged into a 10-7 lead thanks to a Chris Harris try, but David Mele kept the hosts in it. The match burst into life in the second-half as the Falcons stormed into a 20-10 lead through Callum Green.
But the hosts turned on the power up front to go ahead for the first time with a penalty try and a Etienne Fourcade drive over score. Scott Wilson edged the visitors back ahead, but Fabrice Estabanez crashed over to earn a bonus-point 31-27 triumph.
Grenoble turned on the heat from the start in frosty conditions at the Stade des Alps, but it was the Falcons who soared into their lead with their first attack. The ball was worked to Will Witty in midfield who combined with Harris, before the centre sold a dummy to crash over. Craig Willis converted to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead after eight minutes.
The hosts levelled things up after a 20 minute arm-wrestle thanks to Mele. The scrum-half sniped home from close range before outside-half Gilles Bosch converted. But the Falcons made sure they went in at half-time with the lead when Willis slotted a penalty from 25 metres out for a 10-7 advantage.
Bosch landed a penalty to draw Grenoble level, one minute into the second-half. But much like the first period, the Falcons struck. Dan Temm took the ball at the back of a lineout before the Newcastle pack shunted Grenoble back over their own line for a try. Green crashed over at the back and Willis converted, before the outside-half added another penalty to take Newcastle 10 points clear.
But a quick fire double from Grenoble put them ahead for the first time. Newcastle pulled down a maul close to their own try line and referee Vlad Iordescu awarded a penalty try, before Fourcade crashed over. However, Wilson ploughed over from close range to send Newcastle back into the ascendancy.
But Estabanez hit a devastating angle to claim the winning score, with Bosch converting to wrap-up their first win in Europe this season.