The media descended on Kingston Park today in the build-up to Thursday’s crucial Amlin Challenge Cup showdown at home to Brive (kick-off 7.45pm).
Newcastle boss Dean Richards plus players Warren Fury and Scott MacLeod all fronted up to the local and national press after their obligatory team run ahead of the game.
And Richards, who knows a win will all but secure his side a place in the quarter-finals, is relishing the visit of the Top 14 club.
“It’s always a tough encounter against the French, and with a quarter-final place at stake it will be even tougher,” said Richards.
“I’ve given a number of players an opportunity in the side tomorrow night, and that’s not a reaction to how we’ve done in the league of late.
“This season we’ve always looked to blood our youngsters in this competition and this week is no different.
“It will take time for our youngsters to develop and ultimately make the grade, and experiences like tomorrow night will make them better players,” he added.
Zach Kibirige is one of those rising stars named in the starting line-up, and the Teessider has made quite an impression on the wing in the Amlin Challenge Cup this term.
Dotting down three times this season, two of which during a man-of-the-match display in the Round 4 trip to Cammi Rugby Calvisano, Richards believes Kibirige will not be fazed by the magnitude of the contest.
He said: “Zach is a quality player and to get an opportunity to play a team like Brive is an experience that he will never forget.
“He will go into the game with no worries at all and he’s got nothing to prove to anyone, and he’ll go out there in a confident fashion.
“If he gets the opportunities out wide then he’ll finish them off, we just need to create those openings for him. Every time he’s had an opportunity in attack he’s nailed them.”
Under the lights of Kingston Park the match promises to be an enthralling spectacle, and the Falcons chief is encouraging the North East and Cumbria contingent to back the club with the knockout stages looming large.
“The fans have been superb this season and have followed us throughout the country and to some far flung corners of Europe,” said Richards.
“Our two home games over the festive period underlined how good the fans are and tomorrow night will be no different. Hopefully we can repay them with a performance and a result to match,” he added.
Tickets are still available for the game by calling the Falcons Ticket Hotline on 0871 226 6060 or click here to purchase online.