Newcastle Falcons v Bath Rugby preview

The Falcons beat Bath 27-16 when the two met in the Guinness Premiership at The Rec in round 6, and have only once before achieved a Premiership double over Bath: way back in 1997-98.

Newcastle Falcons’ only win in their last seven games in the Guinness Premiership was 12-6 at London Wasps on 3 January.

The Falcons have not won at home in the Premiership since a 14-3 victory over Worcester on 1 November. Bath Rugby are the best team in the Guinness Premiership on current form having picked up 22 of a possible 25 league points from their last five games.

Bath have won their last two away games at London Irish and Saracens.

Confident that there will not be a repeat performance of Newcastle’s trip to The Rec, Bath Forwards Coach Martin Haag believes that it is now in the past: “We have forgotten about it,” admitted Haag. “We know what Newcastle can do when given the opportunity, but that was a blip.

“They may have scored four tries here but that’s all in the past now and we are going to go to Newcastle and hopefully do the same to them. It’s irrelevant.”

After the forwards put in such a strong performance against the Watford side, Haag expects more of the same against Falcons.

“The forwards have done well in about 90 per cent of the games this season and the performance against Saracens was nothing short of what we expected,” said Haag. “The hard work and dedication is paying off.

“Newcastle’s a tough place to go. They have a very good pack and a strong front five, and a back-line that can break tackles and get in behind you.

“We’ve got that bit of confidence and 15 individuals who are starting to hit a bit of form. There is some excellent team work.

“If we get our game and the set-piece right and give the backs some ball then we can have a good afternoon.”

Meanwhile Newcastle Falcons have made three changes to their side and Hall Charlton replaces Micky Young at scrum half, while in the pack Adam Balding is ruled out having left the field with illness halfway through the Falcons’ match at Worcester last Friday.

A rejigged back row sees Will Welch coming on to the openside flank, with Brent Wilson shifting to the blindside and Peter Browne reverting to No.8.

The third and final change comes on the wing, where fit-again Charlie Amesbury replaces Gcobani Bobo.

On the bench there is a return for fit-again prop Laurence Ovens, who has recovered from a rib injury in time to face his former club.

Speaking ahead of the game, Falcons director of rugby Steve Bates said: “The result at Worcester didn’t go our way last weekend, which was the main thing, but I think there was enough in the performance to suggest that we can be really positive going in to Sunday’s game.

“We made mistakes at crucial times which let the pressure off the opposition, but generally I think we created a lot of good stuff. Clearly we need to make improvements such as kicking our goals and finishing off our moves, and we’ve been working hard on that during the week in readiness for Bath.”

With results elsewhere seeing the bottom end of the table compacted significantly over the past fortnight, Bates added: “We can’t do anything about the outcome of other games, so we just need to concentrate on what we’re doing rather than worrying about which other teams are winning which other matches.

“As I’ve said time and time again this is a close league, and every team is capable of beating each other on their day. The fact that Leeds have won two on the bounce is no surprise to me, because they’re a good team, but all I’m bothered with is Newcastle Falcons and getting us back up the table.

“There’s still virtually a third of the season left to go with seven games out of 22 still to play, and it will undoubtedly be an interesting last couple of months. We’re one win away from being in seventh place, and Leeds are one win aw

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