Challenge Cup Preview: Pool Three

Newcastle and Brive kick off proceedings in Pool Three on Thursday, and Connacht host Spanish champions Cetransa El Salvador at the Sportsground in Galway on Friday. We preview the action!

Newcastle v Brive
Kingston Park, Thursday, November 15, 19:45 GMT

Newcastle have made seven changes to their team for Thursday’s European Challenge Cup clash against Brive at Kingston Park.

All Black prop Joe McDonnell returns to captain the side, as the Falcons revert to the same pack which drew 18-18 with Gloucester three weeks ago and defeated the Dragons 29-24 the week after.

McDonnell joins a new-look front row from last weekend’s 71-10 opening pool victory against Spanish champions Cetransa El Salvador, taking the place of Jon Golding, while Matt Thompson and David Wilson slot in for Andy Long and Micky Ward respectively.

In the back row, Geoff Parling comes in at blindside flanker as Brent Wilson moves round to number seven in place of Ben Woods, while South African Russell Winter is back for Phil Dowson at the base of the scrum.

There are just two changes in the back-line as Tom May reverts to full-back in place of last weekend’s hat-trick hero Alex Tait.

John Rudd replaces Tim Visser on the left wing with the Falcons looking to extend their lead at the top of Pool C.

Despite naming England centre Jamie Noon in his team for the game, coach John Fletcher revealed that his selection will only be confirmed after undergoing cognitive testing on Wednesday.

Two players who will not feature this weekend are England pair Jonny Wilkinson (ankle) and Toby Flood (scrotum).

“Jonny’s ankle is just a trauma injury from the World Cup, and all you can do really is give it time to settle down and heal itself,” said Fletcher.

“We’re managing that on a daily basis and monitoring his progress.

“It’s a case of days rather than weeks now, but this game on Thursday unfortunately is just a little bit too soon for him.

“If he was a forward you could perhaps get away with playing with limited movement, but with the amount of kicking Jonny does it just has to be 100 per cent right.

“Toby meanwhile has been in a lot of discomfort, as any man will tell you having been hit in the Crown Jewels!

“It was actually Mathew Tait’s head that inflicted the killer blow in the Newport game apparently, but there’s nothing fishy going on, it was just an accidental collision.”

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom May, 14 Ollie Phillips, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Jamie Noon, 11 John Rudd, 10 Steve Jones, 9 James Grindal, 8 Russell Winter, 7 Brent Wilson, 6 Geoff Parling, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Andy Perry, 3 David Wilson, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Joe McDonnell (c)
Replacements: 16 Andy Long, 17 Jon Golding, 18 Phil Dowson, 19 Ben Woods, 20 Lee Dickson, 21 Tim Visser, 22 Alex Tait

Brive: tbc

Date: Thursday, November 15
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)
Touch judges: Andrew MacPherson (Scotland), Peter Carruthers (Scotland)
Television match official: Jim Fleming (Scotland)

Connacht v Cetransa El Salvador
The Sportsground, Friday November 16, 18:30 GMT

Connacht: tbc

El Salvador: tbc

Date: Friday, November 16
Venue: The Sportsground, Galway
Kick-off: 18:30 GMT
Referee: Gwyn Morris (Wales)
Touch judges: Simon Harris (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)


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