RETURNING fly-half Toby Flood has put the pressure on the new faces at Newcastle Falcons to move the club forward after a much-improved campaign last time out.

The Falcons were relegated from the Aviva Premiership back in 2011-12, but after a single season in the Championship have re-established themselves in English Rugby’s elite competition.

And after finishing just three points behind Northampton Saints in the race to finish inside the top six, the Falcons head into the new season with much greater expectations than in previous years.

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They welcome Flood back to Kingston Park after a nine-year absence where he was plying his trade first for Leicester Tigers and then in France with Toulouse.

Former Tiger Maxime Mermoz, DTH van der Merwe and Josh Matavesi have also arrived in the North East during the off-season to bolster the ranks at Dean Richards’ disposal.

And Flood, alongside the other new arrivals, is hoping to help the Falcons take another step forward in their quest for European Champions Cup rugby when the season starts tomorrow.

“Where the guys finished last year was a real credit to the work ethic and environment they created, with that comes a little bit of pressure and the knowledge they have to back it up,” he said, speaking on behalf of Land Rover, who this season will be celebrating its Testimonial Season; ten years of the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup, the national series of grassroots rugby festivals for U11 and U12 teams.

“Having spent time at Leicester you get used to that sort of pressure to a point but it still follows you around. The pressure is almost on the new guys to take that on, push it forward and see where we can take this team.

“It’s part of a progression curve on the up and hopefully we can improve on that this year. There’s an awareness of what Newcastle can do and how they can perform and we’ll be looking to move that on.

“It’s good on a personal note to be back, it was a good three years in Toulouse in terms of the experience and lifestyle and I took a lot away from it but it’s great to be back in the Aviva Premiership.

“I know the product but it’s definitely changed, the intensity has gone up and the dynamic of the league has changed - it's not two or three teams at the forefront.

“There’s a bigger group of teams looking to make top four or top six so I think that makes it a more interesting game and more competitive for us.

"All teams will look at the top six and see it as a viable end position for them.”

Land Rover has a heritage in supporting rugby at all levels, from grassroots to the elite. In celebration of its tenth season partnering with the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup, Land Rover will be rewarding a lucky U11 and U12 team from each regional rugby festival with an exclusive trip to Twickenham for the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final on May 26.

The teams will get to meet a Land Rover rugby ambassador, join in a Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup Testimonial Parade at half-time and hear which of them has won a club MVP award.

And after three years in France, Flood is returning to his roots having grown up and been to school in the North East before attending Northumbria University.

And the 32-year-old admitted that a return to a city he knows so well not only made the decision to leave France easier but also had its practical benefits as well.

“I know the area and the people so I have an awareness of how the town works and I know where I am going,” he added.

“It is quite nice to go to a ‘new’ club and I don’t have to scope out the area. I knew where I wanted to live, I knew which parts of town to go to or not depending on what I was looking for.

“I was enjoying my time out there but when the opportunity arose to come back to Newcastle I had a conversation with Dean (Richards) and the people involved and it was a fairly easy decision.

“I think part of the reason to come back was the type of rugby they are playing.

“The way they portray the coaching set up is really positive and I think they’ve recruited well with the guys I'll hopefully get to play with.”

Land Rover is celebrating its ‘Testimonial Season’; ten years of the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup. The national series of grassroots rugby festivals is testament to Land Rover’s continued support of grassroots rugby through its ‘We Deal In Real’ campaign. Follow @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal