Hayman returns for crucial Falcons clash

Newcastle Falcons welcome back club captain Carl Hayman for Friday’s Amlin Challenge Cup match against Italian side Petrarca Padova at Kingston Park (kick-off 8pm).

The Falcons know that a victory would secure their safe passage through to the quarter-finals of the competition for the fifth successive season, whilst a four-try bonus point win on Friday would guarantee home advantage in the last eight and a potential date with one of the Heineken Cup giants.

Making five changes from the team which won 16-14 at French side Albi last weekend, director of rugby Steve Bates is without Laurence Ovens and Tane Tu’ipulotu, both of whom picked up injuries at Stade Municipal last time out.

Tu’ipulotu’s place at inside centre is taken by Rob Miller, who deputised well there from the bench in the recent away victories at London Wasps and Albi.

Fit-again Rob Vickerman partners Miller in the midfield following his recent foot injury, with the only other change to the backs seeing Charlie Amesbury restored on the left wing after missing the Albi game with lower rib trouble

In the pack the only two changes come at prop, with skipper Hayman in for Matt Thompson at tight head and Micky Ward taking the place of the injured Ovens on the loose head side.

Speaking ahead of the game, Bates said: “We were made to work hard to secure the late victory over in Albi, but we now have our destiny in our own hands in terms of progressing through to the quarter-finals and securing home advantage.”

Refusing to take his Italian opponents lightly, he added: “We saw in Padova back in October what a capable side they are, and we had to fight for every single minute to come away with a 29-27 victory.

“They are a very robust forward unit, with an exceptional kicker at fly half in the form of Ludovic Mercier.

“There is no danger of us underestimating their threat after the scare we endured in the away leg three months ago, the boys have prepared well this week and we’re carrying a bit of confidence at the moment after a couple of decent results away at London Wasps and Albi.

“Of course the players want to turn it on for our home fans after the defeat we suffered to Leeds in our last outing here, but with a strong Friday night atmosphere and the support of our home crowd I have every confidence that we can work hard and get the result we need.”

Newcastle Falcons team to face Petrarca Padova:

15 Alex Tait, 14 Danny Williams, 13 Rob Vickerman, 12 Rob Miller, 11 Charlie Amesbury, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Micky Young,1 Micky Ward, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Carl Hayman (captain), 4 James Hudson, 5 Mark Sorenson, 6 Josh Afu, 7 Brent Wilson, 8 Filipo Levi

Replacements:16 Alex Walker, 17 Matt Thompson , 18 Grant Shiells, 19 Adam Balding, 20 Ed Williamson, 21 Peter Browne, 22 Chris Pilgrim, 23 Gcobani Bobo

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