Competition: RFU Championship Play-offs, Semi-Final first leg
Venue: Headingley Stadium, Leeds
Kick-off: Mon 6th May, 3:15pm
The waiting is finally over for the Newcastle Falcons. After finishing top of this year's RFU Championship table, their promotion campaign reaches its climax with the start of the playoffs.
Dean Richards' team have won all but one of their league matches this season, making them the bookmakers' favourites for promotion to the Premiership going into this afternoon's Semi-Final first leg with Leeds Carnegie.
However, Falcons Fly-half Jimmy Gopperth says form counts for very little when it comes to the play-offs. He said:
– Jimmy Gopperth, Newcastle Falcons
It's cup rugby, form doesn't really matter. Anyone can pipe up on the day.
"After all the slog and 11 months of training and playing in snow, it's finally come down to business time. This is why we play rugby and this is what it's all about.
"We begin the promotion push and hopefully we can give the North East a Premiership club."
The Falcons have been relentless in terms of their form this season. They finished 24 points ahead of 2nd place Nottingham in the table, losing only once to Bristol in Round 22. Falcons Hooker Rob Vickers says the team are feeling confident ahead of the play-off campaign. He said:
– Rob Vickers, Newcastle Falcons
"There's no reason for us to worry.
"We are very respectful of the teams we're playing. The next two games are against Leeds. They're a very young team, they're going to play with ambition and that in itself poses a real challenge.
"So we're very respectful of what Leeds are going to offer."
Despite being favourites to go up, Falcons coach Dean Richards says this year's competition is tough. He said:
– Dean Richards, Director of Rugby for Newcastle Falcons
"It's a very difficult competition.
"You get to the latter stage, the business end - as we're in at this moment in time - and there's some very good teams in it.
"I think it's fair to say that all four sides probably wouldn't have finished bottom of the Premiership this year.
"So the competition is good."
The second leg takes place at Kingston Park on Sunday 12th May. If the Falcons can overcome Leeds Carnegie over the two matches, they'll face either Bedford Blues or Nottingham in a two-legged Final scheduled for 23rd and 29th May.