Newcastle Falcons have made 13 changes for Friday’s European Challenge Cup trip to Welsh side Ospreys (kick-off 7.05pm).
No 8 Harrison Orr makes his senior debut for the club after joining from Ealing Trailfinders in the summer, forming part of a pack which sees hooker Ben Sowrey making his first start. David Wilson and Michael Young are the two men to keep their place from the side which defeated Bristol 19-14 in Saturday’s Aviva Premiership encounter, American lock Nick Civetta coming in for his competitive debut.
Glen Young starts on the blind-side flank after returning to his parent club from Championship finalists Doncaster Knights, Joel Hodgson starting at fly-half after coming on as an early replacement last weekend. Craig Willis is at inside centre in his maiden senior outing of the campaign, Fred Burdon captaining the side on his first team debut after impressing for the club’s second string.
Ireland Under-20s full-back Brett Connon makes his competitive debut for the Falcons after playing in the Junior World Championship final in June, while Mouritz Botha features from the bench after summer surgery.
Director of rugby Dean Richards said: “We went for a bit of stability in terms of the squad over the last six weeks and there are a lot of boys knocking on the door who deserve an opportunity to play. They’ll get that chance this weekend, and deservedly so.
“It’s not about developing youngsters, it’s about giving people who deserve the chance, the chance to play. There have been a number of boys who have been outstanding for the A-team or coming off the bench for us, and we have been delighted with their performances. A lot of these boys are playing well at this moment so it’s important they get this chance and stake their claim. And there’s no better place to stake your claim than down at the Ospreys.”
As well as freshening up their playing squad the Falcons have also rotated their coaching ranks this week, with skills coach mark Laycock and forwards coach Micky Ward steering the ship.
Richards explained: “There is a long term view to what we are doing. We’re not doing it just to change things. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest, but we’re doing well at the moment. For me it’s about developing the players, developing the coaches as well and keeping things fresh.
“There is a little more onus on these coaches to take certain responsibilities they wouldn’t ordinarily do, and they will be leading it. Next week (line-out coach) Scott MacLeod and (attack coach) Dave Walder will do the same, with (head coach) John Wells taking the defence.”
Also pooled with French teams Lyon and Grenoble in the Challenge Cup group phase, Richards added: “The goal is to get into the quarter-finals, and if we can do that we’ll be delighted. Looking at the squad this year as opposed to last, I think we’re in a far better position.
“The one thing I’d say about the French is you’ve got to win your away games. We’ve got Grenoble coming over next week which will be an interesting game for us then we play Lyon home and away. That will be a tough call because they will throw everything into their home game, and we’ll then see what happens with the away game.
“If we get into Christmas and if we’ve won three out of the four we’ll be in a good place - four out of four, absolutely fantastic.”
Newcastle Falcons team to face Ospreys (Friday, Liberty Stadium, 7.05pm)
15 Brett Connon
14 Marcus Watson
13 Fred Burdon (captain)
12 Craig Willis
11 Belisario Agulla
10 Joel Hodgson
9 Michael Young
1 Alex Rogers
2 Ben Sowrey
3 David Wilson
4 Will Witty
5 Nick Civetta
6 Glen Young
7 Daniel Temm
8 Harrison Orr
16 David Nelson
17 Sam Lockwood
18 Andrew Foster
19 Mouritz Botha
20 Callum Chick
21 Sam Egerton
22 Juan Pablo Socino
23 Alex Tait
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)