Preview: Newcastle v Leeds

Bottom-of-the-table Leeds face Newcastle as they desperately seek to end a run of three straight Guinness Premiership defeats at Kingston Park on Friday.

Leeds’ Director of Rugby Stuart Lancaster has made two changes to the squad that were beaten heavily by Saracens last week, with young prop Michael Cusack replacing Adam Hopcroft and Fijian Appo Satala promoted to the first-team bench.

And while Lancaster is disappointed with the early results, he is keen not to dwell on the negatives as his injury-ravaged side face one of the toughest away trips of the competition.

“Obviously the focus in training has been on fixing up those (skill execution and decision-making) key areas,” he said.

“We are in a challenging place at the moment and injuries to key personnel currently are not helping. These injuries would stretch the strength in depth of the clubs at the top end of the Guinness Premiership let alone a club coming back into the top division.

“Unfortunately, we are not getting any luck at the minute and that was demonstrated when Mike MacDonald phoned me on Monday morning to tell me of his injury picked up in his final game in the World Cup just before he was due to return to us.”

Meanwhile, hosts Newcastle, who are playing their six home game in their last seven Premiership outings, welcome back centre Mark Mayerholfer to their starting XV with Tom Dillon making way.

Elsewhere, David Wilson replaces Micky Ward at tighthead prop as the Falcons look to extend their remarkable home record.

However, Director of Rugby John Fletcher has insisted that if his Falcons underestimate the Premiership strugglers, the Yorkshiremen could spring a shock.

“If we aren’t at our best on Friday then Leeds will bite us on the backside. We know what they can do, and despite their results so far they have been in contention in all of their games,” he said.

“Against an outstanding Gloucester side they were leading at half-time, and would have been beating Saracens last weekend but for a few uncharacteristic missed kicks.

“They had as much ball as Saracens did and managed to hurt them on a number of occasions, so we have to earn their respect and play to our peak.”

Form: Newcastle have built something of a fortress at Kingston Park, a venue where they have lost just once in their last twelve outings in all competitions. The Falcons have also suffered just a solitary defeat to Friday’s opponents in twelve previous meetings, a 25-28 defeat in February 2006.

Newcastle: 15 Matthew Burke, 14 Tom May, 13 Mark Mayerhofler, 12 Joe Shaw, 11 John Rudd, 10 Steve Jones, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Russell Winter, 7 Phil Dowson (c), 6 Geoff Parling, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Jason Oakes, 3 David Wilson, 2 Andy Long, 1 Joe McDonnell.
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 Jon Golding, 18 Andy Perry, 19 Brent Wilson, 20 James Grindal, 21 Adam Dehaty, 22 Ollie Phillips.

Leeds: 15 Leigh Hinton, 14 John Holtby, 13 Tom Rock, 12 Lee Blackett, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Richard Vasey, 9 Joe Bedford, 8 Mark Lock, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Rhys Oakley, 5 Stuart Hooper (c), 4 Erik Lund, 3 Colin Noon, 2 Vili Ma’asi, 1 Tommy McGee.
Replacements: 16 Michael Cusack, 17 James Parkes, 18 Pablo Bouza, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Mike Aspinall, 21 Appo Satala, 22 Jon Goodridge.

Date: Friday, 4 October 2007
Kick-off: 20:00 BST (19:00 GMT)
Venue: Kingston Park
Referee: Andrew Small
Touch judges: Ken Stewart, Robin Goodliffe
Assessor: Colin High
Television match official: Trevor Parlett

365 Digital

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