Dean Richards backs Newcastle Falcons to handle pressure
Director of rugby Dean Richards says Newcastle Falcons can handle the pressure of being the Championship's most sought-after scalp this season.
The north east club have dominated the division with six wins out of six so far, plus five bonus points.
"We came down from the Premiership last year, everybody wants your scalp," Richards told BBC Look North.
"Because we're unbeaten, people want to beat us but it's not something we're pondering and worrying about."
Two subsequent British and Irish Cup victories against Cross Keys and Connacht have maintained the Falcons' momentum, built up following director of rugby Richards' return to the sport after suspension.
Success on the field has rekindled interest in rugby union in the region, with a 4,608 attendance for the victory against Leeds Carnegie higher than five of the Falcons' Premiership crowds last season, including the visit of Leicester Tigers.
Falcons fans returning to roost
- Top attendance at Kingston Park in 2011/12: 8,013 v Saracens in April 2012
- Top attendance at Kingston Park in 2012/13: 4,608 v Leeds Carnegie
- All of Newcastle's home fixtures have generated a 4,000+ crowd, with 4,317 attending the Doncaster game in September
- Five of the Falcons Premiership games last term had lower attendances than the Leeds and Doncaster games - Exeter, Bath, Wasps, Gloucester and Leicester.
"It's like that at the start of the season - I was there with Quins," Richards said.
"There's a certain amount of scepticism from supporters, but when they start to see the side winning, they see there's something reasonable going on.
"The boys are playing well, the coaching staff are good, the off-field activities are improving and it's going really well.
"There's a feel-good factor but not just within the stadium itself but in the supporters who come along as well."
Richards has experimented his squad in the non-Championship fixtures, giving debuts to academy products Zach Kibirige and Scott Wilson, while Alex Tait has also returned to the fold.
"You learn a lot about players in different situations, their strengths, weaknesses, mentally, and you pick up bits and pieces," Richards added.
"It's about educating the guys going forward in the style of play, how we want to play, the nuances they need to pick up and they will.
"By the end of the season hopefully we'll be running and getting the results and performances that we want."