Jimmy Gopperth starts at fly-half for tomorrow’s RFU Championship clash with Bristol Rugby at Kingston Park after recovering from a slight hamstring injury that kept him out of last week’s trip to Plymouth Albion (kick-off 3pm)
The Kiwi goal-kicking supremo partners Warren Fury at half-back and is one of four changes as the Falcons look to finish the regular season with a perfect 22 wins out of 22 ahead of the play-offs.
Hard-hitting centre James Fitzpatrick gets the chance to shine alongside Adam Powell at the heart of the northeasterners’ backline, while Tom Catterick switches to full-back with fellow Barnard Castle Alumni Alex Tait moving to the wing.
In the pack Jonny Golding replaces Grant Shiells at loose-head prop, and Mark Wilson returns to the back-row in place of Ollie Stedman.
With the Falcons in the box seat to complete the season with a 100% record, Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards insists his side are taking each game one step at a time.
He said: “The one thing that we have been good at this year is putting what has gone on in the past few months behind us, and just taking one game at a time and focussing upon that.
“There is no doubt that the players will do that, and it is not so much about an unbeaten record, it is about winning the game and the players are good at that.”
Newcastle came away from Bristol with a 37-20 victory on the opening day of the season in the reverse fixture thanks to tries from Luke Fielden (2), Tane Tu’ipulotu and Ally Hogg.
Gopperth, who kicked five penalties and a conversion in that game, is wary of the threat posed by Andy Robinson’s troops.
“Bristol are coming up here needing to win so it is going to be a good challenge for us, and we are really looking forward to it,” said Gopperth.
He added: “We have just got to make sure that we are on our game and look after the ball as they are going to be looking for turnovers and score points.
“Discipline is going to be key for us, and it is important that we play our own game, relax and enjoy ourselves.
“One of our goals at the start of the year was to not just get promoted, but to win every game along the way.”
Tickets are still available for the game by calling the Falcons Ticket Hotline on 0871 226 6060 or click here to purchase online.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Alex Tait, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 Carlo del Fava, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 James Hall, 18 James Goode, 19 Richard Mayhew, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Michael Tait