Newcastle Falcons have made two changes for Saturday’s Aviva Premiership visit of Bristol to Kingston Park Stadium, Michael Young and David Wilson both coming into the side for the 3pm kick-off.
Young starts at scrum-half against the newly-promoted outfit, Wilson packing down at tight-head prop after coming on from the bench last weekend in the first game of his second spell with the club.
Despite Bristol sitting win-less at the foot of the table after five defeats from five, Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards is taking nothing for granted against a team who were victorious on their last visit to Kingston Park during Newcastle’s 2013 RFU Championship run-in.
He said: “They’re a good side. You only have to look at the teams they’ve played so far. Their start has been slightly different to ours, they’re a good team on paper it’ll be a difficult game.
“They’ve assembled a reasonably good squad. The issue is they’ve played against Exeter, Saracens, Wasps and Harlequins. All those sides play a bit of rugby, and three of those sides have been thumping teams whoever they’ve come across. You can’t read too much into what their results have been so far because they haven’t played the same guys we have. I think it’ll be a tight game.
“The outside expectation is that we’ll win and we’ll win comfortably, but you can’t expect that and you can’t prepare for that. If you look at their results, they’ve played against a totally different set of teams than we’ve played against. Three of those are probably going to finish in the top three this year – Saracens, Exeter and Wasps. They’ve been thumped by each of those three, but they’re going to be far more competitive than people think.
“They’ll be physical up front. Their scrummage is not bad and they have people like Jordan Crane in their side who are big ball carriers for them. Gavin Henson, if he’s fit, should be a threat. They’ve got good players all around and, in that respect, they’ll be a real threat to us. I think they had 57 players out on the pitch training this week. They’ve got injuries, but they’ve still got a lot of players available to them. They’ve got a squad out there to pick from.”
Asked about the notion that Saturday is a ‘cup final’ for Bristol, Richards said: “I think it’s massively important for them. For us, we’re picking up points most games and we’re doing reasonably well. We just need to make sure that we nail this week, finish this batch of games positively, and then we’ll be reasonably happy.
“We’re alright. We’ve won two out of the five so far, and should have won another two. Had we won those, then we would have been ecstatic. We didn’t though, and even though we took match points out of those games the players were pretty disappointed with the fact that we didn’t nail them. Had we done that we would be far happier.
“It’s that little bit of accuracy in terms of understanding when to play and how to play, and getting into that right position to play. Sometimes it just needs one or two errors from the odd individual here and there, and that can have a big impact. We’re not a side at this moment in time that is blessed with a lot of ball carriers and line breakers, so in that way we tend to have to be pretty accurate in everything we do to make sure we score.
“When you’ve got a Niki Goneva out, a Nili Latu out and a Marcus Watson who’s only just coming back from injury, it has an impact on the line breaks you make and your finishing ability as well. We miss these boys, but provided we’re more accurate we’ll still score our tries.”
Tickets are still available for Saturday’s game by calling 0871 226 6060.
Newcastle Falcons team to face Bristol (Saturday, 3pm, Kingston Park Stadium)
15 Simon Hammersley
14 Alex Tait
13 Dominic Waldouck
12 Juan Pablo Socino
11 Sinoti Sinoti
10 Mike Delany
9 Michael Young
1 Rob Vickers
2 Scott Lawson
3 David Wilson
4 Calum Green
5 Evan Olmstead
6 Mark Wilson
7 Will Welch (captain)
8 Ally Hogg
16 Ben Sowrey
17 Alex Rogers
18 Jon Welsh
19 Will Witty
20 Daniel Temm
21 Sonatane Takulua
22 Joel Hodgson
23 Belisario Agulla
Referee: Wayne Barnes