Falcons change four for trip to Bath

Newcastle Falcons have made four changes to their side, as they prepare for Saturday’s Guinness Premiership trip to Bath.

Two of the four come in the front row, as fit-again prop Jon Golding replaces Laurence Ovens on the loose head side and Rob Vickers takes over from Matt Thompson at hooker.

In the back row Brent Wilson replaces Tongan international Josh Afu, while the only change to the backline sees Rob Vickerman return from a dislocated finger at outside centre in place of Gcobani Bobo.

Director of rugby Steve Bates hands a Guinness Premiership debut to Will Welch, after the England Under-20 flanker’s starring role in last Sunday’s 45-3 demolition of French side Albi.

Welch scored one of Newcastle’s seven tries on the day, with Bates saying: “Both of our European games over the past fortnight have been useful for different reasons.

“Although I might not have admitted it at the time, on reflection getting away from Padova with a 29-27 win in the middle of a rainstorm was actually really important for us.


“The Albi game was in completely different circumstances, and there were a number of really positive signs to emerge from it.

“The guys looked very comfortable, we moved the ball around well, were much more precise and kept possession for longer.


“All seven tries were really good team scores involving a number of different players in each move, and it’s something that we can certainly build from.

“A number of players have really taken their chances, and it’s given us a lot of selection posers right throughout the team. Guys like Will Welch and Charlie Amesbury have seized the opportunity and laid a real marker down, and it’s nice to have that sort of competition in those and a number of other positions.

“The European break has allowed us to look at the players in some slightly different combinations, and it has really reinvigorated the squad. The task now is to transfer that over to the Guinness Premiership stage, which we know will not be easy, but we’re playing with a lot of confidence now and a real belief in where this team can aspire to.”

With Bath lying three positions but just one point ahead of the Falcons, Bates said: “Some people might say their season hasn’t started very well, but from my point of view all it demonstrates is the competitive nature of the Guinness Premiership.

“Defences are really strong and a lot of games are decided by less than one try. Bath have found themselves narrowly on the wrong end of a lot of those tight matches, and that’s a position I can empathise with given some of our own results this season.

“That’s just the nature of this league at the moment, all the teams are really competitive and I don’t think we can underestimate Bath at all.”

With The Rec set to provide a picturesque setting, albeit it in wet conditions, Bates said: “When I used to play their 20 years ago it was a real bog, but to be fair to them in the professional era they’ve gradually improved it to the stage now where it’s an excellent surface.

“I don’t think the pitch conditions will be a major factor on Saturday, and whilst it may well be a bit heavier than normal it will be a million times better than when I used to go there to play in the old days. The forecast is for a wet day, which doesn’t suit either side especially, and it looks like being a case of who responds best to the challenge.

“Looking at the two sides I expect it to be a close game, and a lot could well depend on some refereeing interpretations as well as which side kicks its goals on the day.”

Newcastle Falcons team to face Bath:

15 Charlie Amesbury, 14 Danny Williams, 13 Rob Vickerman, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Micky Young,1 Jon Golding, 2 Rob Vickers
3 Carl Hayman (captain), 4 James Hudson, 5 Mark Sor

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