By Richard Dore

NEWCASTLE Falcons skipper Will Welch says it’s vitally important that the club remain in the Gallagher Premiership for the benefit of North-East rugby.

Despite that message, the Falcons remain firmly out of the driving seat in the battle to avoid relegation ahead of tonight’s must-win home game with Northampton.

After a difficult season Newcastle remain rooted to the bottom of the table, seven points adrift of Worcester Warriors and eight behind Leicester, after the Tigers prevailed at Kingston Park in a nail-biter last weekend.

Top flight rugby is of course important for the players, staff and fans at Falcons, but Welch feels the club’s impact is wider.

“I think it’s massively important to have a Gallagher Premiership team in the North-East,” said Welch, who was speaking at a Gallagher ‘Train with your Heroes’ session with Darlington Mowden Park U18s, after their girls side won a nationwide competition launched by Gallagher.

“If you look at England as a whole the majority of the Premiership clubs are in the Midlands or down and there’s only really us and Sale.

“There was Leeds but there’s a bit of trouble there now. It’s just about having an even spread across the country and it allows kids who’re coming through to have a club to aspire to play towards.

“If you’re a youngster up here in the north east what club do you go to, where’s the catchment area, who do you strive to play for?

“Without a Premiership club it’s probably quite difficult to a degree so it’s massively important to get a spread across the country, you’ve got youngsters coming through wanting to go on and play professionally or play for England.”

Despite the points deficit at the wrong end of the table, the battle against relegation is far from over for the Falcons.

Newcastle host Northampton tonight before travelling to Gloucester and finishing up at home against Bristol Bears, not out of the mire themselves.

Welch, who has endured a nightmare season of freak injuries, has an outside chance of making it back for that final game against Bristol while his team-mate Flood also issued a rallying call.

“We’ve made it difficult for ourselves, I think we had a decent shot but the problem is, teams are so good this year,” commented Flood.

“You joke and kid but you sort of think there’s three or four games that we lost that would have put us up to fifth or sixth.

“The teams around us are playing really well at the moment and the reality is a good team is going to go down, a team that’s been very good this year is going to go down.

“We’ve got three to go, we know there’s a big gap to bridge but all we can do is put pressure on those teams above us so each game is a massive cup final, each game is one we have to win.

“It’s going to be tough but it’s a challenge where you want to have belief in the changing room that you can do it, that you have the ability to do so.

“It’s by no means easy and this Premiership campaign has been impossible to pick so there’s nothing to say we can’t sneak in at the end.”

Welch and Flood were speaking at a Gallagher ‘Train with your Heroes’ session with Darlington Mowden Park U18s, after their girls side won a nationwide competition launched by Gallagher, a passionate community insurance broker and proud title partner of Premiership Rugby.