Newcastle fly half Jimmy Gopperth has cut a frustrated figure in recent weeks. The 34-9 defeat to Gloucester at Kingsholm was not as one-sided as the scoreline may suggest, and this is the main source of Gopperth’s frustrations.
“We’ve played some good games of late. The Gloucester game was an example of that where we had a strong first 60 minutes then fell away. I don’t think it’s down to fitness as we’re a fit bunch here, but perhaps we lose concentration when the match reaches the end 20 minutes,” said the New Zealand playmaker.
While February’s victory over Leeds may have allowed Newcastle some time to think that they may be safe, they head into today’s match knowing that a Leeds victory would leapfrog the Yorkshire team ahead of them and place Newcastle in bottom spot. But Gopperth isn’t one to feel the pressure.
“It’s obviously a big game for us but we’re confident. We need to work on ball retention and making sure that we can attack and offload at the right times. Our defence has been pretty sound but we need to work on a rounded team performance. I fully believe that we haven’t showed our true potential yet.”
Indeed potential is something that Gopperth refers to on a number of occasions. Coming from a Super XV background he can see the effect that the presence of relegation has on teams, believing that were Newcastle to play a more care-free game they may be placed higher in the table. “Relegation plays a big part. Often we just look to pick up a point here or there, whereas without relegation we’d look to throw the ball about a bit more and score some more tries.”
Gopperth is extremely comfortable with his residence in the North East, likening it to his home in New Zealand. It is therefore perhaps no coincidence that Newcastle’s two most recent signings have arrived after spending most of their years in New Zealand. Centre Jamie Helleur and back row Richard Mayhew will arrive at the close of the season, dearly hoping that Newcastle can secure safety.
“We often talk about developing our own brand of rugby, the Newcastle way of doing things,” began Gopperth, “We’ve got some great youngsters who have an excellent work ethic which has really rubbed off. But we want to build a squad here and it all comes down to this weekend and ensure that we’ll be here next year.”
The added pressure of what is billed as almost a relegation decider may work against some players, but Newcastle can rest assured that their key decision maker will not be daunted.
Jimmy Gopperth was speaking on behalf of an initiative between 188BET and Top Up TV, who are offering British fans three months of top class sporting action on ESPN for free. For more information please go to www.188promo.com/espn