JOEL HODGSON has warned against the dangers of playing ‘helter-skelter’ rugby as Newcastle Falcons attempt to snatch a European Champions Cup place on the final day of the season.

Falcons head into their final game at relegated Bristol tomorrow in ninth position in the Aviva Premiership table, and will have to rise to seventh to have any chance of making the Champions Cup play-offs.

To do that, they need to win, and are also relying on Northampton and Gloucester to suffer home defeats. Even then, they will only have a chance of making the Champions Cup if Gloucester lose the European Challenge Cup final and do not qualify via that route.

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The odds are heavily stacked against Dean Richards’ side, but the fact they have any chance of securing a Champions Cup return highlights the extent of the progress that has been made this season.

Bristol are likely to throw caution to the wind tomorrow as they look to sign off a miserable campaign with a rare success, but Hodgson is keen for Falcons to stick to their preferred pattern of play rather than be drawn into an end-of-season free-for-all.

"There’s a lot riding on it for us, and there’s the chance of achieving something that hasn’t been done in 13 years in terms of qualifying for the Champions Cup," said Hodgson. "We can’t wait for it, and I see no reason why we can’t finish seventh.

"We’ve just got to put in a performance, which is all we can do, and we’ll do everything in our power to take care of the things we can control.

"Bristol know their fate in terms of finishing bottom but they have been dangerous and competitive all season, and with it being their last game in the Premiership and in front of their home crowd, they may look to throw the ball around a bit more.

"We’ve just got to stay disciplined because we’ve put a game plan in place, and we think it will work if we stick to it. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t if we execute our roles, and it’s about having the discipline to stay within that shape."

Having returned to his hometown club this season following two years away at Northampton and Yorkshire Carnegie, Hodgson has recently signed a long-term contract extension to remain with Falcons, who would enjoy their highest number of Premiership victories in 15 years if they were to win at Ashton Gate.

"I’ve loved this season and am thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given," he said. "The coaches have shown faith in me, my team-mates have accepted me back into the club and helped me grow into a role where I can lead from the front. That’s what you need to do as a fly-half, and it’s a really exciting time to be at Newcastle Falcons.

"If you were to stop someone in the crowd at one of our home games and ask them what they thought about the way we were playing, I think they’d say it’s a lot more exciting this season with more attacking, running rugby. That’s what we want to do, albeit in the right areas of the field, and we’ve seen our attacking shape develop into something that really is a weapon for us."