Rob Andrew insists Newcastle Falcons will not underestimate Irish visitors Connacht when they clash in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Kingston Park…

Rob Andrew insists Newcastle Falcons will not underestimate Irish visitors Connacht when they clash in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Kingston Park in Friday night’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final.

The Falcons are unbeaten in the competition so far after Pool double wins over Brive, Border Reivers and L’Aquila but Director of Rugby Andrew said: “Connacht are a proud team and if we take our eye off the ball at all we will be punished.”

Andrew and his coaching staff ran the rule over Connacht as they made the Celtic League trip to Borders, and, despite the sides having never met in competitive action, they have crossed swords before.

“We played Connacht over in Galway in a pre-season match the summer before last, and while we won 32-9 on that occasion, we did see that they never roll over and will always play to the final whistle,” said the former England fly-half.

“They’ve beaten Worcester and won in France during the Pool stages, and, while they may be bottom of the Celtic League, they have the ability to do a job if we don’t turn up and play to our best.”

Andrew’s men scored 44 tries in their six Pool matches, averaging more than seven tries per game, and with a major European title on offer and Heineken Cup qualification at stake the European Challenge Cup competition has assumed major importance in his side’s season.

“The European Challenge Cup has seen us play some good rugby this season, particularly our 24-17 win in Brive at the end of the Pool stages,” said Andrew.

“That assured us a home semi-final against London Irish or Bayonne should we get through Friday’s game, and that home advantage could be crucial as we aim to make it in to the final on the back of some good home support at Kingston Park.”

Australian fullback Matthew Burke has scored two tries in his four starts and one bench appearance in the competition so far this season, and said going into the game: “We’re in the knock-out stages of a European competition, and this is the time the boys have to really stand up and be counted.

“We’ve played some good rugby in the group matches, but that doesn’t mean anything unless we can translate it into Friday’s game. This competition is a chance for us to really make a success of our season, and the prospect of a home semi-final is a great incentive.”

The Falcons were beaten 32-13 by Northampton Saints at the weekend and Andrew added: “The Connacht game can’t come quick enough for us and, if I had my way, we would play it tomorrow. But having another home match so soon is absolutely ideal because we have points to prove to a lot of people. I’m pleased it’s at home and the sooner the better.”