NEWCASTLE Falcons’ returning international contingent have only found their way onto the bench for this evening’s visit of Plymouth Albion.
Director of rugby Dean Richards has stuck almost entirely with the XV which won 24-3 in horrendous conditions at Jersey last weekend, with Andy Higgins the only addition as he replaces Ryan Shortland on the left wing.
Samoan Taiasina Tu’ifua, Tonga’s Suka Hufanga and Scotland’s Rory Lawson are all included among the replacements after their international exploits last weekend, while a tight hamstring for prop Oliver Tomaszczyk means a call-up to the bench for Scott Wilson.
Ally Hogg once again captains the side with skipper Will Welch sidelined, Richards explaining: “Will is on the way back but he is probably stilla couple of weeks away.
“We are happy with his progress and he is out there on the training field rather than the physio’s room, but we won’t rush him and will just decide when the right time is to slot back in.”
Despite the Falcons being 13 points clear at the top of the Championship and sixth-placed Plymouth winning only half of their ten games, Richards said: “They are a hard, physical side who will be difficult to overcome.
“As always we will have looked at what they have to offer, but the main preparation is just on ourselves and on how we can improve every single week.
“We will wait and see what unfolds in front of us, and what the opposition bring to the table.
“You also have to adapt to how the referee will officiate certain aspects of the game, but hopefully we can impose ourselves onto Plymouth rather than the other way round.”
Looking further ahead, Richards revealed no decision has yet been made on whether or not full-back Greg Goosen will return from his loan spell at French club Agen, which finishes after this weekend.
He said: “That is yet to be decided. There are a few days left until the end of his loan deal, there is a bit of chat between us at the moment and he seems to be enjoying his time in France. Nothing has been finalised one way or the other just yet, so we will see what happens.”
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: A Tait, L Fielden, A Crockett, J Helleur, A Higgins, J Gopperth, W Fury; G Shiells, M Thompson, J Hall, S Tomes, S MacLeod, C York, M Wilson, A Hogg (captain). Replacements: M Mayhew, S Wilson, J Goode, T Tu’ifua, R Lawson, J Hodgson, S Hufanga.
PLYMOUTH ALBION: R McAtee, L Warner, T Howley-Berridge, K Fisilau, T Bowen, H Slade, R Cushion; L Cowan-Dickie, T Cowan-Dickie, L Fairbrother, B Beukeboom, H Tovey, S Hocking (captain), S Matavesi, A Carpenter. Replacements: P Roberts, J Arnott, D Morton, B Rogers, J Vickers, I Ascroft-Leigh, R Nasiga.
Referee: J Meredith. Kick-off: 8pm