Newcastle Falcons have made two changes for Sunday’s RFU Championship derby clash at Leeds Carnegie (kick-off 12pm).
Experienced internationals Rory Lawson and Taiasina Tu’ifua both come into the starting line-up as the Falcons aim to continue their unbeaten run with victory at the switched venue of Otley RFC.
After a month without league action due to his side's British and Irish Cup exploits coupled with the blizzard conditions that swept the nation, Falcons boss Dean Richards has welcomed the return of Championship rugby.
“I’m really looking forward to this weekend’s game, and Leeds will be the biggest challenge that the boys will have faced since Bedford Blues away,” said Richards, who insists fourth placed Leeds will fancy their chances of being the first club to topple the Falcons this campaign.
He added: “Leeds are a good side, they are coached well and speaking to a few boys down there, they are really up for this game.
“With the change of venue and kick-off time they will feel confident that they can turn us over, but I think it’s a great opportunity for us to show what we’re all about.”
12 points clear at the top of the table with 13 wins out of 13 and edging closer to cementing a play-off berth, Falcons lock James Goode cannot wait for Sunday’s derby duel, adding: “The boys can’t wait to get stuck into the league games again.
“Like many teams we have not had as much rugby as we would have liked due to the bad weather.
“We managed to get our cup game played at Cross Keys a week ago but we are now looking forward to the Championship stuff and getting back into it.
“That is what we are here for, trying to get back into the Premiership and wanting to continue our 100% record.”
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Andrew Higgins, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 James Hudson, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Taiasina Tu’ifua
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 James Goode, 19 Ally Hogg, 20 Warren Fury, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Suka Hufanga