Hogg relishing Falcons return
Ally Hogg is confident Newcastle Falcons will be ready to compete with the best as they enter the new Aviva Premiership season.
The former Scotland international reports that preparations for the newly promoted club have been going well.
Newcastle start their Premiership campaign on September 6 when they tackle Bath at Kingston Park.
"Obviously we had a shorter pre-season this year because the Championship went on a lot longer [finishing on May 29] but the boys are training really hard and are looking good," Hogg told Press Association Sport.
The number eight expressed his excitement on Newcastle's return to the Premiership and stated that he was looking forward to "trying to play rugby again rather than lift weights".
The Falcons have introduced several new faces this year, perhaps most notably former Scotland international scrum-half Mike Blair. With Rory Lawson's unfortunate retirement from the game due to injury, Blair appears an ideal replacement and Hogg said that he has slotted well into the side.
"Mike's a great player and he knows a fair few of the Scotland boys. He's fitted in well and he'll be important for us this year," Hogg said.
Newcastle are no strangers to Bath, having already faced the west country outfit in a pre-season friendly in France.
The teams could not be separated on the day, playing out a 21-21 draw, and although Hogg played down the fixture in terms of what the sides learnt about each other, he stated the importance of getting game time under their belts.
"Obviously it was our first game, so it was all about getting our systems in place, and what we want to do and how we want to play rather than who the opposition was," Hogg said.
The team certainly seem ready for the return to the Premiership after last year's Championship success, and Hogg is relishing the opportunity to take on the likes of Saracens and Leicester.
"Obviously they'll be tough, they're quality teams, they compete in every competition they play in, but anyone coming up here on a windy, horrible night is going to find it tough and we'll certainly use that to our advantage," Hogg added.
Confidence is high, but director of rugby Dean Richards' watchful eye has ensured that nobody is getting ahead of themselves. Hogg says that no real targets had been set.
"What we want is to just stay up," Hogg said, "and after that to just finish as high as we can."