NEWCASTLE FALCONS are enjoying confounding expectations ahead of tomorrow’s Gallagher Premiership meeting with last season’s beaten finalists, Wasps.

Having gone eight months without a competitive fixture after last season’s Championship campaign was curtailed early because of coronavirus, Falcons were installed as strong favourites for relegation when the Premiership campaign began last month.

However, rather than struggling to handle the step back up to the top-flight, Dean Richards’ side have made an explosive start to life in the top tier, winning their opening two matches against Bath and Sale Sharks.

An away game at Wasps represents a daunting challenge as they attempt to complete what had looked an unlikely hat-trick, but according to head coach Dave Walder, Falcons like nothing better than having to battle against the odds.

“People write us off every year, so it’s nothing new and we don’t pay too much attention to it,” said the former fly-half, who was a Premiership and European title winner with Wasps as a player.

“We’re up in the North-East and we have to do certain things differently for all manner of reasons, but that’s the way it is and we just quietly get on with it. Our focus is entirely on getting our processes right and putting things into place on game day, so we’re not too worried about people on the outside talking us up or down.

“There’ll be some guys within the group who enjoy that underdog tag, and maybe others who’ve joined us from clubs we’re they’re expected to win trophies on a regular basis, and they embrace that expectation. Everyone’s different, and they all have their own ways of making sure they turn up on game day with the right preparation and motivation to give their best performance.”

Falcons have named an unchanged side for the third game in a row, with the back-to-back wins over Bath and Sale having made them the first newly-promoted team to win their opening two Premiership fixtures since 2005.

The only two changes to the match-day 23 are on the bench, where there is a potential debut for former South Africa scrum-half Louis Schreuder, recently arrived from Super Rugby side the Sharks. He is joined among the replacements by fit-again centre George Wacokecoke.

“Wasps were probably one disputed penalty try call away from being the Premiership champions, so we know it’s going to be tough down there,” added Walder. “They’re a very good side, Lee Blackett has done a brilliant job and they created a huge momentum during the restart.

“They play a great brand of rugby from a spectator point of view, and having snuck under the radar for the first two weeks we know we’re not the surprise package anymore.”

Falcons will head into European action after tomorrow’s game, and Walder would love to see his players sign off from domestic duty with another strong showing.

“Our confidence is high, our energy is good and that comes from winning games, which is something we’ve got into the habit of doing over the last year and a bit,” he said. “We’re looking after the players in terms of their workload, and I think it contributes to that good feeling.”