7 Jun, 15:39
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
"It has plusses and minuses really. On the one hand it's frustrating when you're playing well to have to miss out the next week, but taking the broader view it's a long old season, and when you get round to the latter stages it means all the guys up front still have a bit of gas left in the tank, which can be vital when other sides are run down.
"We're lucky enough to have seven or eight quality front row forwards at the club now, and at any given time we need all of them to give their best for the Falcons, so what this system does is to keep us all fresh for when that time comes."
The Falcons' stock up front has been on the rise in recent weeks after big performances away to Leicester and in last week's demolition of Brive-Correze, with Long stating: "The last few games have been really good as a pack.
"With the rotation system the one downside is that it can lead to an inconsistency if you're playing with different guys each week, but we've managed that really well, and the players who have been rotated in to the team on any given week have kept the level of performance high."
Highlighting the way relative youngsters Mike McCarthy and Geoff Parling have contributed along with more experienced faces in the last few outings, Long says: "Macca has been playing fantastically well in the Development Team, and there's an excellent spirit in the squad with a load of the first teamers going down to Percy Park every week to cheer them on.
"The performances he's been putting in for them and now the first team are very similar to the start of last season when he scored great tries against Worcester and Bath, and was really making some big ball carries. He's now back to that sort of form, and working with someone like Owen Finegan at the club has helped him a lot because having him there each day has increased his awareness of what he has to do.
"As for Geoff, he came in and has actually took a leading role in the pack, which is an enormous credit to him. He actually calls the line outs a lot of the time when Owen Finegan isn't playing, and he's really tapped in to having guys like Colin Charvis and Stuart Grimes around the club because he studies the line outs a lot with them during the week and has a great attitude to learning the game.
"He's coming in to his own carrying the ball in the loose with the pace he has and the knack of finding holes around the ruck, so he's a big weapon for us now, and to have these guys continuously coming through is great news for us as a club. "
Having been the next big thing as a youngster himself, Long now finds himself in the unfamiliar role of senior statesman, a position which he admits he relishes.
"I feel really comfortable in the role that I now have, almost as the senior front row forward in the club if you like, and I enjoy that task," he says.
"It's something that I want to build on in the future, to help the other guys in the pack as much as I can.
"This year is a really big one for me personally, and I just hope I can help the Falcons to be successful to repay