GREG PETERSON knows unbeaten Newcastle Falcons will have lost their element of surprise when they travel to Wasps on Saturday, but after back-to-back Premiership wins over Bath and Sale, the lock forward is backing them to rise to the challenge.

Peterson has played all 160 minutes as Falcons have made a remarkable return to the top-flight, but the challenges do not get any easier, with Dean Richards’ side preparing to take on last season’s beaten finalists this weekend.

People have seen what we’ve got now, so that element of surprise isn’t in our armoury as much as it probably was in rounds one and two,” said the American second-rower, who joined Falcons from French side Bordeaux-Begles in 2019. “Wasps will have picked over what we’ve got in our game plan and be looking for holes or weak spots, so it’s just on us to smooth those things out and keep evolving our style.

“They’re probably much more of an attacking team than what we’ve faced over the previous fortnight, and we’ll get tested in different ways. That’s great, because we love that too, and if we can go into the European fortnight with three Premiership wins in the bag the confidence among the squad will just sky-rocket.”

The form with which the Falcons have started the season may have been a surprise to those on the outside, but not to Peterson, whose side went through last season without a single Championship defeat before having to endure an enforced eight-and-a-half-month spell without any action.

“It’s been a strange year for everyone, but from our own side it was more just the uncertainty of not knowing when we were going to come back, and having that long period until late August without any training as a group,” he said. “Once we eventually got a start date there was a real collective mind-set from the boys that we were just going to grind it out until that first Premiership game, because we knew that was the best way of giving ourselves a really positive foundation going into the competition.

“To start off the way we have done has been incredible, and it has been great for our confidence. It’s been a case of guys getting their heads down and working hard, rather than anything particularly revolutionary, but there’s just been a real united focus.

“It’s been great getting wins against two of last season’s top teams, but the best bit is knowing there’s still so much more to come from the group. It’s great to think what’s possible from the boys, and people should be excited about what we can do this season.”

Having seen last-minute drama in Friday’s 15-13 home win over Sale courtesy of Toby Flood’s match-winning try, Peterson said: “I was walking around like an absolute dead log in those last few moments but a bit of ‘old-man magic’ from Micky Young and Floody managed to get the job done, and it was a great feeling to finish off that way against a class team like Sale.”

Confident the Falcons can keep their form going but aware of the challenge ahead, he added: “The Premiership is a whole other level and a totally different beast from what we had last season, and I think the guys are responding to that.

“You have to fight fire with fire, and so when we come up against a big Sale forward pack like we did last week we have to implement a game that can beat these guys.”