Newcastle Falcons have made just one change to their side for tomorrow night’s visit of Doncaster Knights, with Gareth Owen coming in for the Greene King IPA Championship clash.
The Welshman replaces Josh Matavesi for the 8pm kick-off at Kingston Park Stadium, Matavesi injuring his calf in the bonus-point victory away to Ealing Trailfinders on December 21.
That result handed the unbeaten Falcons an eight-point lead at the top of the table, Newcastle’s side remaining otherwise unchanged as they set out in search of a third victory over Doncaster this season.
The Falcons have defeated the Knights 57-0 and 43-14 in Championship Cup action, line-out coach Scott MacLeod saying: “We’re very excited about Friday, the boys have had a bit of time off over Christmas and everyone is raring to go.
“It was an exciting game the last time we played Doncaster just over a month ago, they threw everything at us and played a fast offloading game from all parts of the field. They competed at kick-offs, everything they did was at a high tempo and they’re a good attacking side.”
Afforded a mid-season break by a gap in the league programme following their four-try victory at Ealing on December 21, the former Scotland international says the respite has had the desired effect as Newcastle look to add further daylight between themselves and the chasing pack.
“It’s been a welcome break for the boys just to get a few days off during the middle part of the season, and they’ve benefited from it,” said MacLeod.
“You don’t often get time off over Christmas so it’s great just to recharge the batteries, and for some of the boys who have been carrying niggles it’s been a chance to let those settle down. The enthusiasm and energy in training this week has been as good as I’ve seen it all season, and although the proof will be in the pudding on Friday night I think the little break has just given us that bit of a boost.”
Keen to build on their early-season results, he added: “It’s all about us imposing ourselves on the opposition and implementing onto the game the things we’ve worked on during the build-up.
“You have to execute those things under pressure, which we’ve not always done, but we’re concentrating on ourselves and just trying to have high standards in what we do.
“What we’ve found this season is that every team seems to raise their game against us, so the footage we’re watching from their previous couple of games doesn’t bear much relation to what we come up against on the day.
“You have to take it as a compliment that you’re the scalp they all want, and it was the same when I played in the Championship with Newcastle six or seven years ago.
“If we play as well as we can play then we can beat anyone in this league but there are good teams here, and if we allow out standards to drop there’s always that possibility of an upset.”
Newcastle Falcons team v Doncaster Knights (Friday, 8pm, Kingston Park Stadium)
15 Tom Arscott
14 Adam Radwan
13 George Wacokecoke
12 Gareth Owen
11 Sinoti Sinoti
10 Toby Flood
9 Sonatane Takulua
1 Trevor Davison
2 George McGuigan (captain)
3 Logovi’i Mulipola
4 Darren Barry
5 Sean Robinson
6 Will Welch
7 John Hardie
8 Gary Graham
16 Jamie Blamire
17 Sam Lockwood
18 Mark Tampin
19 Greg Peterson
20 Nemani Nagusa
21 Michael Young
22 Joel Hodgson
23 Ben Stevenson