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Rugby Union: Falcons put basics first; Squad ready to test new gameplan.

Byline: By NICK PUREWAL

NEW Falcons lineout king Stuart Grimes reckons his pack will have no trouble winning quality starter ball against Sale on Sunday.

The Sharks head to Kingston Park (kick-off 3pm) for the Guinness Premiership season opener, with Newcastle desperate to start the new term with a win.

With Sale, Northampton and Bristol all visiting the North East in the season's first month, lineout coach Grimes admits the start is pretty crucial to his side's chances.

After the summer arrival of new defence coach Alan Tait to add to Grimes and the more influential scrummaging role given to Ian Peel, the Falcons' play book and overall style has been subject to something of an overhaul.

Grimes said the changes should stand the squad in good stead.

He said: "We have changed a lot from last season in terms of our game plan, and with having myself and Alan Tait on the coaching team, we have a lot of new ideas which we are implementing to our respective areas of the side - myself with the line out and Taity with the backs and defence.

"So far the response has been very positive from the players to the changes we have made, but ultimately until you get in to the competitive games then it is all talk at this stage of the year.

"Real games under real pressure is what it is all about, and only at that stage of having played a few months will we know truly where we are.

"I think there is a kind of tradition among clubs of trying to talk themselves up in the weeks before the new season, but we are ust working hard here and quietly getting on with the job."

Grimes was pleasantly surprised by what he saw when he put the pack through their lineout paces, and has since been pushing them hard to perfect what he sees as an already potent ball-winning weapon.

Despite the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) taking the sting out of certain areas of the game, Grimes said starter ball will still be contested as strongly as ever.

The maul is expected to be one area where sides will struggle to dominate, as under new rules the defending team can now collapse such a drive, and Grimes said the Falcons will look to take full advantage of that new law.

He added: "I am lucky in the sense I have inherited what is already a very good unit, with a lot of talented players.

"What we are doing is just focusing on the real basics, doing them extremely well and maximising the benefit of the new laws.

"The experimental law variations will de-power a lot of the traditional mauling sides, of which there are quite a few in the Guinness Premiership, and then there are the EPS periods in which a number of teams will be pretty heavily hit by international call-ups.

"I don't think some people have truly considered the implications of both of these things.

"We believe they are just another small factor in our favour as we look to build what we believe is a much more balanced team and way of playing."

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CONFIDENT: Stuart Grimes says the Falcons can benefit from the new rules
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 4, 2008
Words:544
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