DEAN RICHARDS has been delighted with the progress of Newcastle Falcons’ youngsters this season, but the director of rugby wants to see a greater degree of consistency as the campaign progresses.

Falcons, who boast a 100 per cent record this term, have made a decent start to their rebuilding process following last season’s relegation from the Premiership, and complete their Championship Cup group schedule with a home game against Jersey Reds.

Richards’ side have already qualified for the quarter-finals, so while tomorrow’s game will help establish the seeding pattern for the remainder of the tournament, the director of rugby will once again name a number of young players in his starting line-up.

Falcons’ academy products have featured prominently in the senior squad all season, and while Richards accepts an inconsistency of selection has contributed to some up-and-down displays, he has been pleased with the development of his youngsters.

“The squad rotation has possibly been a factor in a little bit of a lack of cohesion in our performances, and that’s only natural to a degree when you swap things from one week to the next,” said the Falcons boss. “At the same time, we’ve given lots of guys an opportunity while keeping everyone fresh, and it has ensured that if we do need to drop people into the team then they know what they’re doing.

“We’re almost at the end of the year now and we’ll probably see a bit more consistency in our selection during the back half of the campaign, but it’s a very competitive squad and it’s great that we have a genuine battle in every position.

“One of the beauties of this season is that we’ve been able to give opportunities to players like Rob Farrar, Ben Stevenson and Adam Radwan, to name just a few. They have been outstanding, and they’re really holding their hands up. I’ve been delighted with what the lads have brought to the table, and the squad is in a good place.

“If you asked the players how they felt the first part of the season had gone they’d be totally honest and tell you there are frustrations about the fact that we haven’t quite clicked into fifth gear.

“That’s partly down to as us coaches not giving them consistency in selection from week to week, but at the same time we’ve been giving opportunities to players and enabling those guys to drop into the team more easily for when the need arises.”

The overriding priority for the season is to secure an instant return to the top-flight, so while tomorrow’s home game is of some significance given there is an opportunity to win some silverware once the knockout matches begin, next weekend’s league match against second-placed Ealing is of much greater importance.

Nevertheless, Richards does not want to start looking too far ahead, even though Jersey Reds were easily beaten as Falcons claimed a 42-19 win at Kingston Park in the league last month.

“Some people are understandably pointing to the fact we play Ealing away in the league next weekend and talking about what a big game that is,” he said. “But I’ve always been a firm believer in only thinking about one game at a time.

“We want to be the top seeds in the cup because it rewards our fans with a home draw if we keep progressing further into the competition, and if we can do that by getting a good win against Jersey then that in itself puts us in a great position going into the Ealing match.”

Adam Radwan returns to action tomorrow, having missed the last two games with a foot injury, while Ben Stevenson starts on the other wing having scored six tries in seven matches. Last week’s hat-trick hero George Wacokecoke starts alongside Josh Matavesi in a potent midfield pairing.

Toby Flood returns at fly-half as the Falcons aim to take their winning run to 12 games, with George McGuigan captaining the side after playing his 100th Falcons game last weekend. Gary Graham, Sam Lockwood and Mark Tampin all start against their former club.

“The last time Jersey came here they played well and I think the scoreline flattered us, to be honest,” said Richards. “They’re a good side and we’ll need to be on top of our game if we want to get another win against them. They’re well-coached, they’ve got good players and it’s another good test for us.”

Newcastle Falcons: Tait, Radwan, Wacokecoke, Matavesi, Stevenson, Flood, Takulua; Lockwood, McGuigan, Tampin, Barry, Robinson, Graham, Welch, van der Walt.

Replacements: Blamire, Brocklebank, Daniels, de Chaves, Chick, Stuart, Hodgson, Owen.