Newcastle Falcons have made four changes to their side for Friday night’s televised Aviva Premiership trip to Bath.
Two of those come in the front row where Rob Vickers and Taione Vea replace Alex Rogers and Mike Cusack respectively, the others in the back three, as Marcus Watson and Simon Hammersley come in for Sinoti Sinoti and Alex Tait.
On the bench there is a place for Argentinean back Belisario Agulla who could be in line to face his older brother Horacio, who is on Bath’s playing staff.
Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards expects a stern test against a Bath side who were beaten 19-14 when the two teams last met on January 2, a result which sparked a run of four successive Aviva Premiership home wins for Newcastle.
Richards said: “They have got some quality players and a huge amount of depth, their back three is something else and they have in-form centres with Kyle Eastmond and Matt Banahan both playing really well.
“We know what to expect from a line-out perspective. They drive it every time, which will be interesting, and we are aware of that. Outside of that they will play rugby from anywhere with people like Semesa Rokoduguni, Horacio Agulla and Tom Homer in the back three. They will run it from all areas, and it is a good back line which will really test us.
“Their forwards lay the platform for them and we will have to compete with that. We need to make sure we play in the right parts of the field.”
Excited by the atmosphere which awaits his side under the Friday night lights, Richards added: “There is nothing better. The pitch will be nothing more than what I experienced 30 years ago. It hasn’t changed much, but this is a big game and everyone is looking forward to it.”
“Years ago you would go down there and it would be one hell of a punch-up. How rugby has changed. It is a lot more sanitised these days and things have changed totally, but what has not changed is that the Rec is a difficult place to go to. The boys all know that.”
On Bath, he added: “It has probably been a bit of a surprise for everybody this year to see where they are. Like us they have had a few injuries and people out throughout the year. It goes to show that does impact on teams, they will be missing some guys but we also have a lot injured, and both sides are impacted.
“Bath clawed their way back into last Friday’s game at Harlequins during the last 20 minutes and showed what they can do. But our recent form has been good and we know we will have to put in one hell of a performance. We will throw absolutely everything we have into it.”
Newcastle Falcons team to play Bath (Friday March 18, The Rec, kick-off 7.45pm, live on BT Sport):
15 Simon Hammersley
14 Giamba Venditti
13 Chris Harris
12 Juan Pablo Socino
11 Marcus Watson
10 Mike Delany
9 Sonatane Takulua
1 Rob Vickers
2 George McGuigan
3 Taione Vea
4 Mouritz Botha
5 Calum Green
6 Mark Wilson
7 Will Welch (captain)
8 Nili Latu
16 Scott Lawson
17 Alex Rogers
18 Kensuke Hatakeyama
19 Sean Robinson
20 Ally Hogg
21 Michael Young
22 Craig Willis
23 Belisario Agulla