Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Newport Gwent Dragons

RedDragon

Friday 31 January 2014 – 7.45pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

LV= Cup Pools 1 and 4 #4

 

After our Challenge Cup hopes ended in a bit of a squib a couple of weeks ago, it’s time tomorrow night to fulfill a fixture and perhaps not much else for the immediate present, as our LV= Cup campaign comes to a close.

 

Neither the Falcons not our visitors from south Wales have anything but pride to play for as Northampton and Saracens have romped to semi-final places through our respective pools. But it would be nice not to finish bottom, and we could conceivably even finish second in Pool 4 with a bonus point victory, providing Scarlets get nothing in their game and Wasps also don’t win.

 

But the most important thing surely must be to put on a good performance, show some passion and zip, and get the KP faithful back onside for the rest of the season, in which we will have only Premiership points to play for.

 

After an opening weekend defeat to compatriots the Scarlets in Llanelli back in November, the Dragons got themselves on the board in this cup in round two with a 20-8 victory over Wasps at Rodney Parade. However, any faint hopes of qualifying ahead of rampant Saracens were ended last Saturday when the Welshmen were well beaten 16-34 at home by Northampton, who have easily won our section.

 

Scrum-half Luc Jones scored the only try for the fourth Welsh region against the Saints, to which Jason Tovey added a conversion and three penalties, and the home side actually led at the break thanks to the try late in the first 40. However the Saints came back in the second half with the help of a penalty try, one of five scores the Midlanders got despite being without a number of star players.

 

In the Robot League (RaboDirect Pro 12), Newport are actually placed second among the Welsh sides and sit sixth in the overall standings with five wins and seven defeats from their twelve matches so far this season.

 

On the road, as we’re interested in, Newport have only won once in the league this season. That away victory was at Glasgow in November by a score of 8-23.

 

More recently, the Dragons were successful away to Mogliano in the Challenge Cup on the same night that we were beating Bucharest at KP. The Amlin Challenge Cup saw the Dragons sneak into second place over Bordeaux-Begles, both sides having fourteen points (yet the Welsh side scored fewer tries in the group, had a worse overall points difference and a worse aggregate score in the games between the sides), in a pool dominated by unbeaten Bath on twenty-eight.

 

The Falcons have plenty of history with Newport Gwent Dragons and their housemates Newport RFC. Just last season we were drawn with the amateur side in the British & Irish Cup and after a tricky win at Rodney Parade in December 2012, pounded the Welshmen 93-0 at KP a week later. That made up (kind of) for two Heineken Cup defeats to Newport RFC in 2001/02.

 

Our other Heineken campaign also saw a visit to Gwent, and another sneaky away win before we secured qualification for the quarter-finals in glorious fashion at KP back in January 2005. Matthew Burke, Colin Charvis and Tom May were our try-scorers against Percy Montgomery’s Dragons. Matt Thompson is the only member of our twenty-two that day to still be in the Falcons’ playing squad.

 

More recently, in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, Newport came north in November 2007 and the Falcons won an entertaining match 29-24 in front of 7,406 fans (rather more than will be there tomorrow night I expect). The aforementioned Charvis was the visiting captain but tries from Ollie Phillips, Steve Jones, John Rudd (there’s three names a lot of us won’t have thought of in a while) and Brent Wilson secured a home win.

 

A year later the Dragons got their revenge at Rodney Parade in a game best remembered as Will Welch’s Falcons debut. Rory Clegg converted a try from Phillips and a penalty try, but Charvis’s Newport side won 25-14. Our centre partnership that Friday evening shows another two oft-forgotten names – Tom Dillon and Spencer Davey.

 

The Newport squad shows few familiar names, to me anyway, though Lions tourist Toby Faletau will not be involved at KP tomorrow night as he starts for Wales in their Six Nations opener tomorrow. 34-year-old second-rower and captain Rob Sidoli has not played for the national team since but has 42 caps and has played over 100 games for the Men of Gwent, and scrum-half Richie Rees has got stuck on nine caps after debuting in 2010.

 

 

Gonzalo Tiesi finally makes his Falcons debut tomorrow night alongside Sinoti Sinoti, who makes a second appearance. Phil Godman and Warren Fury are back in the starting lineup and there are long-awaited returns from injury for Matt Thompson and Dom Barrow in the pack. Mark Wilson makes his 100th Falcons appearance, and wears number eight. Jamie Helleur is on the bench along with two looseheads with Scott Wilson and Kieran Brookes on Saxons duty.

 

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Dom Barrow, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Will Welch (c), 7 Andy Saull, 8 Mark Wilson.

 

Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Franck Montanella, 18 Gary Strain, 19 Scott MacLeod, 20 Chris York, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Jamie Helleur.

 

 

Dragons side: D Evans, W Harries, A Hughes, L Robling, H Amos, K Burton, J Evans, N Williams, H Gustafson, F Chaparro, M Screech, R Sidoli (captain), J Groves, D Waters, I Jones.

 

Replacements: R Thomas, A Coundley, D Way, C Hill, N Cudd, W Evans, D Jones, A Smith.

 

 

Tomorrow will be the first Falcons first team match I’ve been to this year, so looking forward to it. A win of any kind is just desperately needed for a morale boost. Come on!

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

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Match reaction: Saracens 41-8 Newcastle Falcons

munchen_allianz4

Sunday 26 January 2014 – 3.00pm

Allianz Park, London

LV= Cup Pools 1 and 4 #3

The commentary didn’t work again today for a while. The sound started after maybe 15 minutes, when Saracens were already 9-0 up.

In this glorified reserve match, it sounded like the Falcons, with a lot of young players in the starting line-up including four debutants, put up a decent fight in the first half and we scored the only try in the first half. Discipline was poor early on, Sean Tomes getting binned, but improved and we kept the Fez Boyz to 15-8 at the break.

Perhaps predictably, however, Saracens pulled away after half-time. Although they were also playing very much a reserve team after the main side beat the Sharks in a friendly yesterday, there were more familiar names in their line-up, and the superior quality seems to have told in the end.

Conceding four tries (with the bonus point score coming in the dying seconds), as opposed to more, is nothing to celebrate, but it suggests that our defence didn’t do too badly overall. If so, then that’s a positive I suppose, and plenty of players will hopefully benefit from their run-out today.

So that ends our LV= Cup hopes for this season, with another dead rubber coming on Friday at home to the Dragons. The crowd for that one will be interesting.

I can’t see people like Simon Hammersley and Dan Temm playing in the Premiership, so today was maybe part of the long-term plan. Surely we’ll see a few more of the big guns on Friday. Certainly it would be nice to see a decent win at home, since by then we’ll have had one home win in almost three months.

Then it’s the league again, and probably another couple of big beatings before the end of the season. I could say that hopefully we’ll have used the cup games to work something together for the Premiership, but I’ve said that many times this season and we’re consistently let down. Friday is a chance to show that we can do more than just rely on Worcester continuing to lose to keep us in the top division. There’s no pressure at all now, lets just let loose and go.

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match preview: Saracens v Newcastle Falcons

the-saracens-head

Sunday 26 January 2014 – 3.00pm

Allianz Park, London

LV= Cup Pools 1 and 4 #3

How concerned are Saracens at facing the Falcons at home in the LV= Cup on Sunday? Not very it seems, since they have a friendly at Allianz Park against South African side The Sharks tomorrow afternoon.

I guess when you’re top of the league, top of your LV= pool and in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup, you must have a decent squad.

Sarries have a maximum ten points in Pool 1 of this competition after a 21-24 win at Wasps and a 51-10 home destruction of Scarlets in October. Newport and Gloucester have four each and London Irish zero, so the Fez Boyz are odds-on favourites to reach the semi-finals even if next week they wrap up their pool campaign at Northampton.

The Saints top our section, Pool 4, with nine points, followed by Scarlets and ourselves with four apiece and Wasps prop up the table with a single point. We host the Dragons on Friday night in the final pool match, and a win is possible in that one, but it may be a dead rubber by then.

The fixtures we need to be looking out for this week and next are:

24/01 Scarlets v Gloucester

25/01 Dragons v Northampton (on Sky in case anyone wants to watch it)

25/01 Wasps v London Irish

01/02 Gloucester v Wasps

01/02 Northampton v Saracens

01/02 London Irish v Scarlets

As I said, Saracens have had a decent season so far. They were placed in a favourable-looking group in the Heineken Cup, with Connacht and Zebre making up the numbers with the Londoners and Toulouse. Despite two defeats to the French side, including a fantastic match at Wembley in October that ended in a 16-17 win for Toby Flood’s future employers, Mark McCall’s side secured the eighth seed spot in the quarter-finals by pounding Connacht 64-6 at home last Saturday. In April, their European adventure continues away to unbeaten Ulster.

In the Premiership, the 2011 champions have an excellent record of 11 wins and a single defeat from 12 matches so far. A routine 8-29 victory at Gloucester at the start of January brought up the 50-point mark for the season and puts Sarries three points ahead of Northampton in second. After that, there is an 11-point gap down to third-placed Bath, meaning that Allianz Park and Franklin’s Gardens are looking good to host the play-off semi-finals in May.

The only defeat Saracens have suffered in the league this season came at Northampton in October, by the surprisingly high score of 41-20. Scotland’s Duncan Taylor and Kelly Brown scored for the visitors and Alex Goode kicked ten points, but Goode’s England adversary Ben Foden crossed twice among the Midlanders’ six scores.

The following week, they took their frustration out on the Falcons, sending us home from Allianz Park with a 40-3 defeat to contemplate. David Strettle led the way with two of his team’s five tries that day, Charlie Hodgson, Jamie George and Goode the other try-scorers. In 12 matches since that reverse at Franklin’s Gardens, only Toulouse in France a fortnight ago have gotten the better of the Men in Black and Red.

In the professional era, the Falcons have only won twice away to Saracens, both times at Vicarage Road. The match in December 2007 in particular was a fantastic game of rugby, our boys sneaking the points with a 19-22 victory inspired by our four England stars of the time. Mathew Tait, Jamie Noon and Toby Flood scored the tries, and Jonny Wilkinson converted two as well as kicking the vital penalty that won the game.

In the Saracens team that day was Adam Powell, and former Falcons captain Hugh Vyvyan scored one of the hosts’ tries.
Falcons at Saracens:

27/09/1980 Bramley Road            Club Match                W15-3

09/04/1982 Bramley Road            Club Match                W25-6

26/01/1985 Bramley Road            Cup 3rd round         L13-16

12/12/1987 Bramley Road            Division 2                   D7-7

15/04/1995 Bramley Road            Division 2                   D16-16

19/04/1998 Vicarage Road            Premiership 1           L10-12

20/05/1999 Vicarage Road            Premiership 1           L26-40

17/10/1999 Vicarage Road            Premiership 1           L6-55

15/04/2001 Vicarage Road            Premiership               L29-34

09/12/2001 Vicarage Road            Premiership               W24-19

24/11/2002 Vicarage Road            Premiership               L13-17

13/01/2003 Vicarage Road            Challenge Cup QFL1 L10-31

22/02/2004 Vicarage Road            Premiership               L27-32

19/12/2004 Vicarage Road            Cup R6                       L20-22

28/01/2005 Vicarage Road            Premiership               L13-32

20/11/2005 Vicarage Road            Premiership               L18-27

17/09/2006 Vicarage Road            Premiership               L20-44

30/12/2007 Vicarage Road            Premiership               W22-19

21/09/2008 Vicarage Road            Premiership               L14-44

12/04/2009 Vicarage Road            Challenge Cup QF     L13-32

28/03/2010 Vicarage Road            Premiership               L15-58

27/03/2011 Vicarage Road            Premiership               L9-24

09/10/2011 Vicarage Road            Premiership               L5-25

03/11/2013 Allianz Park                Premiership                 L3-40

When Saracens first got their investment from South Africa, they were not the most popular club in England to say the least. However, it seems that this dislike has toned down a bit more recently. I think there is much to admire about Saracens. They have bought in a lot of star players, like Hodgson, Strettle, Chris Ashton, Steve Borthwick, Schalk Brits, but they have also developed a plethora of young stars themselves.

People like the aforementioned Goode and Owen Farrell. Jamie George had a great game against the Falcons and looks to have a very bright future in rugby. They taken players like Mako Vunipola and Brad Barritt and made them top quality players. The new stadium in Barnet is on the whole a nice place to watch rugby, and though it may not be completely perfectly located with regard to public transport, there are plenty of staff dotted around the area to help supporters get there via free shuttle buses.

Above all, you get the feeling at Allianz Park that this is a team and an organisation singularly intent on being the very best in every way, and not shy about taking risks and working hard to get there. As a bonus, there is none of the pretentiousness that visiting fans sometimes experience at places like Leicester or Northampton. Sarries may not always get everything right, but as I say there is much to admire about them and much we and other clubs could learn from them.

 

Simon Hammersley, Ben Morris, Dan Temm and Glen Young all make debuts for a Falcons side captained by Chris York, and Zach Kibirige and Joel Hodgson return. Apart from the centres, this is a set of backs with a lot of pace in it. A further few players could make debuts off the bench.

Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Tom Catterick, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Alex Crockett, 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Chris Pilgrim, 1 Franck Montanella, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Glen Young, 6 Ben Morris, 7 Dan Temm, 8 Chris York (c) .

Replacements: 16 David Nelson, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Grant Shiells, 19 Will Witty, 20 Ollie Hodgson, 21 Andy Davies, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Tom Penny.

Saracens have also selected a less-than full-strength side, with their first team taking on their South African hosts tomorrow.

Saracens: 15. Ben Ransom; 14 Jack Wilson, 13 Tim Streather, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Nathan Earle; 10 Nils Mordt ©, 9 Ben Spencer; 1 Rhys Gill, 2 Jared Saunders, 3 James Johnston, 4 Hayden Smith, 5 Eoin Sheriff, 6 Nick de Jaeger, 7 Matt Hankin, 8 Jackson Wray.

Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Tom Jubb, 20 Maro Itoje, 21 Duncan Taylor, 22 Sam Stanley, 23 Charlie Kingsman.

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 28-0 Bucharest Wolves

Table

Thursday 16 January 2014 – 7.30pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 3 #6

 

I’m now wondering what’s going to go wrong next Sunday.

 

I was on early shift today, great I thought, get home 6pm, plenty of time for a run and shower and tea and everything before the rugby kicks off. A few train delays and mixed-up communications, and I get through the door at 6.45pm. Should have gone running last night.

 

Never mind, we are powering through. Pick up the pace out on the mean streets of rural Cumbria, and I was back in the kitchen and got the radio on just as Smithy was announcing the teams. A shower would have to wait until half-time. Still, got some wood chopped while listening to the first half.

 

The game seemed to start well with an early try and a yellow card for a Wolf, and it didn’t sound like we were ever in danger of conceding. I guess there was always going to be a gulf in quality between the two teams, as there is when we play the top Premiership sides, and Dean Richards and the coaches were in a no-win situation.

 

A draw, defeat or tight win, and it’s further evidence that we are rubbish. A decent win, and it’s only Bucharest. Well, it sounds like we were made to work for the win by a competitive team, which can only be a good thing.

 

It’s good to see some tries from the backs and if that helps confidence, then brilliant. Rory Clegg sounded like he had a canny game, not that you can really tell that from the radio. Hopefully he’ll get a run in the coming two cup games and play himself into some form for the Premiership games.

 

Brive got their five points at home to Calvisano so we’ll not be in the quarter-finals, but since my brother is getting married that weekend, I’m kind of glad we don’t have a game. We were done for in Europe last week really so that doesn’t really matter now. What matters is what the team have learned today that they can take to Saracens next week and, most importantly, to Bath in February.

 

So that’s a first victory in five games, the last being away to Calvisano. A win against Saracens, or more likely at home to Newport at the end of January, would be a first domestic success since mid-November, over two months. That’s where the morale is going to come from for the Premiership run-in. Tonight, especially with a clean sheet, gives us something to build on.

 

I’m missing live rugby. Might have to have another look at the trains for Saracens, but at least I’ve wangled a way to get to the Newport game. No BT Sport games this weekend, maybe there’s a good Heineken game to go to watch in the pub.

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Bucharest Wolves

Howlsnow

Thursday 16 January 2014 – 7.30pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 3 #6

This is a game for only the hardest of hardcore fans – a (practically) dead rubber against a Romanian side on a Thursday night in January.

Following last Thursday’s forgettable loss at home to Brive, we now have 15 points in second place in Pool 3, while the Frenchmen have 18. Therefore we need to get four more points against Bucharest than Brive do at home to Calvisano, which is on French TV (hence our game’s bizarre scheduling).

Stranger things have happened, and indeed the Italians did hold Mike Blair’s old side to a draw at home back in October, but I don’t think anybody is expecting us to have a game on the first weekend of April.

That’s a shame really, as a cup run could have helped boost morale and a big quarter-final at KP would have been something to look forward to. Never mind, onwards and upwards.

This might be our last European match for a while if the foofaraw over the competitions for next season are not sorted out sufficiently to allow for English clubs to compete. If it isn’t, as seems likely, then it’ll be a massive shame as the Heineken Cup is one of the most exciting and high quality competitions in sport.

The pool stage in particular makes the football Champions League’s groups look as exciting as watching paint dry.

Speaking of which, lets get back to the match tomorrow night. The Wolves from the Romanian capital have ten points and would overtake us into second place with a bonus point win by more than seven points, for what that is worth.

Last Saturday afternoon saw Bucharest win 11-23 in Calvisano with tries from Florin Bardasu and Viorel Lucaci, and 13 points from fly-half Florin Vlaicu. That secured a double over the Italians, after a 37-15 home trouncing in October, to condemn them to the Pool 3 wooden spoon. Prior to that, they ran Brive relatively close twice in December, losing 13-18 in Romania and 20-9 in France.

A number of changes to the starting lineup sees a rare start for Alex Crockett while Chris York continues in the back row. George McGuigan, Oliver Tomaszczyk, Fraser McKenzie and Andy Saull are also in while James Fitzpatrick keeps his place from last week. Joel Hodgson and Mike Blair are concussed, meaning Rory Clegg and Chris Pilgrim wear the half-back shirts.

Falcons: 15 Noah Cato, 14 Tom Catterick, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Chris Pilgrim, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Will Welch (c), 7 Andy Saull, 8 Chris York.

Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 James Hallam, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Phil Godman, 23 Adam Powell.

Note that kick-off tomorrow night is 7.30pm, a bit earlier than usual.

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 7-9 Brive

wasteland3

Thursday 9 January 2014 – 7.45pm

KingstonPark, Newcastle

Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 3 #5

 

The pub was a strange place. I’d thought it looked quite nice from the outside, but it turned out the clientele left a little to be desired (no, not me!). The missus found it nicer than she expected though. Weird.

 

We were the only ones watching the game, and anyone who had come in and watched for a couple of minutes would see why. I don’t think the Falcons played that badly, at least in the first half, but it was very predictable and a pretty turgid ‘style’. I’m not sure those in attendance will have felt they had been ‘entertained’.

 

On TV, KP looked as empty as I’ve ever seen for a first team game. There didn’t look to be more than 400 in the West Stand, more in the South. Fewer than 2,000 bodies, I’m sure. They’ll be lucky to get more than 1,000 against Bucharest next week.

 

The match has been chewed over a lot on the internet already so I don’t really have much new to say. There does seem to be a general downer around the club at the moment, at least from the fans. In 2007/08 we played Brive at home on a Thursday night in November, the game was live on TV, and the official crowd was 5,140. Something has gone drastically wrong since then.

 

The North Stand was closed, and will be next week, because the club expects a low crowd. The South bar was apparently closed – I’m not sure that has ever happened for a competitive game. The team are losing (four successive home defeats now, including three in as many weeks) and there is nothing to suggest that a real improvement can be expected when we return to the Premiership in February.

 

It’s a few days more than two years since Alan Tait’s last match in charge against Exeter, since then we’ve had some excitement when Gary Gold was in charge and we had an enjoyable season in the Championship, but now it seems we are back to where we started from, with the cushion of Worcester’s poor season keeping us in a decent position. For now.

 

I don’t know what the answer is, if there is one, but things aren’t going well and I’m not sure that there aren’t internal problems spilling over onto the pitch as happened during Tait’s tenure. Hopefully I’m wrong and the coaches have something up their sleeve that they have been inexplicably holding back for the first four-plus months of the season.

 

Next Thursday might be a good time to pull it out if they do have something for us.

 

That’s pretty much all I can think of to write at the moment.

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

 

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Brive

Brive

Thursday 9 January 2014 – 7.45pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 3 #5

 
After three disappointing league outings, it’s back to Europe anda four-week opportunity for the Falcons to get some form together before an incredibly hard run of Premiership fixtures in February. We have a decent chance of making the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup for the first time since 2010, and that could result in a glamour home tie against a big team coming down from the Heineken Cup.

All we have to do is beat Brive tomorrow night and Bucharest next week, quite doable I’d have thought. Our French visitors are without an away win in the Top 14 all season and Saturday’s 15-9 home victory over Montpellier followed four league games without success. Following a 20-20 draw at Calvisano on the opening weekend of this season’s European calendar, they did sneak a 13-18 win in Bucharest last month, but the lack of bonus points in two victories over the Romanians leaves Brive and the Falcons tied on 14 points apiece at the top of Pool 3.

Logically, the winner tomorrow night should go through.

Of course, our two teams have a lot of previous, having been drawn in the same group in four successive seasons back in the noughties. Brive’s last visit to KP was in January 2009, and despite three Tom May penalties putting us 9-0 up at half-time, Andy Goode’s boot and Norman Ligairi’s try gave the Frenchmen victory by a single point. It was our first home defeat in this competition.

Previously, we had won thrice at home to Brive: 25-19 in November 2007, 24-17 in January 2007 and 51-19 in October 2005. I remember that last game as it was the weekend before I started my first full-time job (:-S). 6,080 saw captain Colin Charvis lead the battering of Brive with two tries. Matthew Burke, Tom May and Jamie Noon also scored, while Jonny Wilkinson converted four of the scores and added six penalties. Some oft-forgotten names of yesteryear were in that team I see: Anthony Elliott, Robbie Morris, Luke Gross, Cory Harris. Tino Paoletti and Owen Finegan were on the bench – two internationals who certainly never lived up to their billing at KP.

We all know that Premiership survival is what really matters this season, but a decent cup run is always good for the morale and although at the moment the three best non-qualifying runners-up in the Heineken are Cardiff Blues, Gloucester and Harlequins, if someone like Leinster, Toulouse or (less likely) Toulon were to implode in their final two games, we could get a bumper crowd and a nice exciting game in the quarters.

Hopefully we’d be more competitive than in the rugby lesson handed out by Cardiff in 2010.

Tom Catterick returns from injury in what looks to be a more attacking backline for the Falcons, as Zach Kibirige and Joel Hodgson also in from the start. Much of the pack is the same though Sean Tomes gets a start and Will Welch is back at number seven. Noah Cato drops to the bench where he sits alongside a quite young replacement front row:

Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Adam Powell, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 James Hallam, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Andy Saull, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Noah Cato.

Brive team and ERC preview here.

Don’t forget that if, like me, you can’t get to KP tomorrow night, the game is live on Sky. This will be my first attempt at finding a licensed establishment to watch rugby since moving to the Village of the Damned, hopefully the new gastropub in the nearby town will oblige. Brown Ale in the fridge will be a welcome bonus.

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @southstandchoir)