Fletcher confident of success

John Fletcher believes Newcastle are close to ending their quest for consistency. [more]

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John Fletcher believes Newcastle are close to ending their quest for consistency.

Fletcher’s men head to Vicarage Road on Saturday for an appointment with Saracens, who are six places and 12 points above the Falcons in the Guinness Premiership.

Climbing the league table in pursuit of Heineken Cup qualification next season has to be Newcastle’s key objective in 2008.

And boss Fletcher is confident they are heading in the right direction.

He said: "We understand where we are in terms of our own development as a club, and everyone is buying in to it.

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"I had a long chat with (Gloucester head coach) Dean Ryan after the game last weekend, and we talked at length about development and taking clubs on to the next stage of their evolution, as he has done so well with Gloucester.

"I don’t think we are that far away from turning good performances into consistently winning performances.

"A big part of it is confidence, playing together, recruitment and occasionally the referee deciding to hold his hand out on the black side rather than the red side.

"It is small margins, but then that is what professional sport is all about.

"I am very focused. I know where we are, I know where we want to go, how we are going to develop the team, who we want to recruit and I am excited about what can happen at this club going forward."

Fletcher makes just two changes from the side that collected a losing bonus point against Gloucester, calling up scrum-half James Grindal and flanker Brent Wilson.

But the Falcons face a huge task stopping a Saracens side currently in the title play-off zone with six league wins from eight starts.

England internationals Andy Farrell and Richard Hill are among those rested for Newcastle’s visit, yet Saracens rugby director Alan Gaffney does not expect a dip in performance levels.

Gaffney said: "We always said we would change things around at this time of year, and the changes are not necessarily based on form – far from it.

"It is that we have a number of guys in the squad who are playing well and deserve opportunities.

"What we are doing is looking to pick sides that are capable of winning games. We have a competitive squad and things are looking pretty positive at the moment."

Gaffney knows Saracens will have to blunt Newcastle’s razor-sharp attacking options.

He added: "We have to treat them with enormous respect.

"We know they have a real cutting edge in their side with the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Mathew Tait, Jamie Noon and Toby Flood in the back line.

"They play exciting and entertaining rugby, and we will have to concentrate hard on our own performance levels if we are to get the result we want."

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