Tait plays down opening-day significance

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The Independent Online

Newcastle boss Alan Tait will steer clear of playing the prediction game as English rugby's new Aviva Premiership season prepares for kick-off.

Tonight's league opener between the Falcons and Sale Sharks at Edgeley Park sees two relatively new-look teams - and new head coaches - facing each other.



Both clubs finished in the Premiership's bottom-four last term, so Tait and his opposite number Mike Brewer know there is much work to be done.



"People at the start of seasons are all trying to make predictions about teams and where they will finish, but it's not for me really," said Tait.



"For example, if you look at Sale last year, they started the season by beating Leicester, who went on to win the league.



"But then Sale themselves dropped away and finished next to the bottom.



"It just goes to show that the first game isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all of your season, but on the same note it's a great chance to get points on the board and generate a bit of momentum around the place."



Tait will parade several summer arrivals tonight, including Scotland internationals Ally Hogg and Andrew Henderson, prop Tim Ryan, fly-half Jeremy Manning and Henderson's midfield partner Luke Eves.



And while Newcastle might not have recruited the big names signed by several other Premiership clubs, Tait is happy with his lot.



"People on the outside might say that we've had to assemble the squad on a limited budget, but I am not someone who will ever say things along those lines," he added.



"I've gone to the board here with lists of people I want to get in over the summer, and the chief executive David Bell and the chairman Dave Thompson have been extremely supportive in backing me.



"We are not a Leicester or a Northampton paying top whack for a squad full of established internationals, but we all know that and you will never catch me whingeing about it.



"I believe in the quality of players that we have at the club, and it takes a special kind of character to wear that Falcons shirt. It's hard work and you have got to want to graft for the cause."



Brewer, meanwhile, fields a line-up including several debutants and shorn of injured England trio Mark Cueto, Mathew Tait and Charlie Hodgson.



Sale also have a new captain in 20-year-old forward James Gaskell, the youngest player to be appointed their club skipper.



The traditional opening weekend London double-header at Twickenham tomorrow sees Saracens - last season's beaten Premiership finalists - tackling London Irish, before Wasps meet Harlequins.



Exeter, meanwhile, will become the 19th different club to play Premiership rugby when they make their top-flight bow against Sandy Park visitors Gloucester tomorrow, while champions Leicester visit Northampton and Leeds Carnegie host Bath on Sunday.



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