Preview: Newcastle v Bath

Newcastle Falcons have made five changes to their side for the final Guinness Premiership match of the season against Bath at Kingston Park on Saturday.

The Falcons will be aiming to take their unbeaten home record to almost the six-month mark, as they eye a seventh-placed finish to the campaign.

In the second row Newcastle director of rugby John Fletcher welcomes back Mark Sorenson and Jason Oakes in place of Andy Perry and Andy Buist, with the only other change in the pack coming at hooker as Andy Long replaces Matt Thompson.

The other two changes come in the backs where Jonny Wilkinson’s rib cartilage injury sees Tom May return to the side on the wing as Toby Flood shifts to fly-half with Jamie Noon and Mathew Tait in the centres, while James Grindal replaces Lee Dickson at scrum-half

On the bench there is a return for Hall Charlton as well as fit-again winger Ollie Phillips, for a match which Fletcher insists still has major significance.

“When you’re a sportsman and it’s your job, you want to win games,” said Fletcher.

“We can push up the table to seventh and give ourselves a chance of European rugby if there is to be a competition next season.

“Our home record of going unbeaten for nearly six months is something we are immensely proud of, and don’t underestimate the importance of that because we want to carry it on until at least the start of next season.”

Looking back on his first campaign in the hot seat, Fletcher insisted there is still plenty of room for improvement despite strides having been made.

“I wouldn’t say the season has been a success, I can’t really back that up while we are sitting at eighth in the table, but what I can say is that we are moving forward both on the field and behind the scenes.

“In some aspects we are moving slower than I thought and in others we are ahead of where I imagined we would be.

“Given that I inherited the squad about four hours before our first game of the season I am pretty comfortable with where we are at in our development. It will take time, but we are moving forward and there are things during the summer that we will work hard at as we look forward to the new campaign.”

Form: Newcastle Falcons have won back to back matches in the Guinness Premiership over Northampton and Gloucester, and have won their last nine matches at Kingston Park since a Harlequins victory there, 3-14, on 10 November. Bath beat Saracens 31-30 at Vicarage Road on Sunday to reach the final of the European Challenge Cup but in the Guinness Premiership Bath have won just one of their last seven encounters: 22-17 at home to Northampton on 10 March. Bath have won the last four meetings between the two clubs, with the Falcons last victory in the series being 33-18 at the Rec on 11 September 2004. Steve Borthwick has made 149 career appearances in the Premiership

The teams:

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Matthew Burke (c), 14 Tom May, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Jamie Noon, 11 John Rudd, 10 Toby Flood, 9 James Grindal, 8 Phil Dowson, 7 Ben Woods, 6 Geoff Parling, 5 Jason Oakes, 4 Mark Sorenson, 3 Micky Ward, 2 Andy Long, 1 Joe McDonnell
Replacements: 16 Jon Golding, 17 Matt Thompson, 18 Andy Buist, 19 Brent Wilson, 20 Ollie Phillips, 21 Hall Charlton, 22 Loki Crichton

Bath: tbc

Date: Friday 28 April
Venue: Kingston Park.
Kick-off: 15:05 (14:05 GMT)
Referee: Rob Debney
Touch judges: Don Helme, Roger Baileff
Assessor: Ed Morrison
Television match official: Trevor Parlett


365 Digital

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