Santiago Socino (left) and older brother Juan Pablo Socino

Team news: Falcons side to face Bath on Saturday

Friday 26 January 2018

Brothers Santiago and Juan Pablo Socino both return for Newcastle Falcons on Saturday against Bath as they aim to maintain their unbeaten run in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

The Falcons, who have won their last eight games in all competitions, are top of Pool 4 after scoring 110 points during bonus-point victories over Wasps and Cardiff Blues, and head to the Rec aiming for a repeat of the 33-32 victory they enjoyed at the same venue during September’s Aviva Premiership encounter.

Newcastle make 10 changes from the side which defeated Russian champions Enisei-STM 33-19 last Saturday in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, Adam Radwan maintaining his place on the left wing after back-to-back hat-tricks as Newcastle secured a home quarter-final in the European Challenge Cup.

Centre Dominic Waldouck makes his first competitive appearance of the season having spent the first half of the campaign at Oxford University, for whom he featured in the Varsity Match at Twickenham, Joel Hodgson and Sam Stuart forming the half-back partnership.

Santiago Socino returns at hooker after starring for the Falcons during their Premiership victory at Bath earlier in the campaign, Scottish pair Glen Young and Andrew Davidson forming the second-row partnership as fellow Scot Ally Hogg comes into the back row.

On the bench there could be a debut for Callum Hunter-Hill, the Scotland Under-20s lock who is on a two-week loan deal from Edinburgh, Newcastle also rotating their coaching resources for Saturday’s televised clash.

Taking the reins at the Rec will be a trio of Mark Laycock (first team skills coach and academy manager), Scott MacLeod (line-out coach) and James Ponton (academy head coach), Ponton insisting his squad are fresh despite many of them enduring 21-hour trip back from Georgia on Sunday.

“The boys who went to Tbilisi had a long travel day on the way back but they’ve been well looked after, and have had plenty of recovery time,” said the man who is also part of England Under-20s’ coaching staff this season.

“They’ve come back fresh from that time off, they’ve trained well and we’re in a good place going into the Bath game.

“It’s a really exciting place to be at the moment and there is a good feeling around the club, from top to bottom. Even in the cup weeks where we are using the squad a bit more we’ve had the senior pros lending their full support to the team, and a lot of it is driven by our head coach Dave Walder in terms of guys knowing their roles. People are buying into it, they’re doing their homework and we’re seeing the results.

“Saturday is an opportunity for some of our youngsters to get some first team rugby, but also a balance of leaving some of our more senior guys in the side. It means we have a good blend, and the younger guys coming into the team will get an idea of what it takes to play at this level.”

Aiming for the second victory at The Rec this season, Ponton and his squad are relishing another visit to the Roman City.

“It’s a lovely setting down by the river, they’ve got all their stands close to the pitch and it’s a very noisy atmosphere, so I’m sure the lads will enjoy it,” he said.

“There’s a semi-final place at stake over the next two weeks, it’s great for the club to be in that shakedown and it just adds to the overall positive atmosphere.

“We know Bath will look to play through the middle of the field and then look for opportunities to go wide from there, so they will try to put a lot of pressure on our front five to make a lot of defensive decisions. They will attempt to move us around, get us to assess threats, and if we get that wrong they’ll pick us off.

“Defensively we’ve been working hard to counter that, and from us it’s about seeing and converting opportunities. We’ve got some very good players involved, and if we can find a little bit of space we have guys who are capable of finishing. Our forwards are a match for anyone, winning the contact areas is key and if we can generate that front-foot ball for our backs then we can put opponents under pressure.”

Newcastle Falcons team to face Bath (Saturday, 3pm, The Rec, live on BT Sport)

15 Alex Tait

14 Belisario Agulla

13 Dominic Waldouck

12 Juan Pablo Socino

11 Adam Radwan

10 Joel Hodgson

9 Sam Stuart

1 Sam Lockwood

2 Santiago Socino

3 Trevor Davison

4 Glen Young

5 Andrew Davidson

6 Ally Hogg

7 Simon Uzokwe

8 Ryan Burrows (captain)

Replacements

16 Ben Sowrey

17 Adam Brocklebank

18 Jack Payne

19 Callum Hunter-Hill

20 Callum Chick

21 Ruaridh Dawson

22 Tom Penny

23 Craig Willis

Bath Rugby

15 Darren Atkins

14 Matt Banahan

13 James Wilson

12 Ben Tapuai

11 Jeff Williams

10 Freddie Burns

9 Darren Allinson

1 Nick Auterac

2 Michael van Vuuren

3 Shaun Knight

4 Levi Douglas

5 Luke Charteris (captain)

6 James Phillips

7 Josh Bayliss

8 Paul Grant

Replacements

16 Nathan Charles

17 Will Vaughan

18 Sam Nixon

19 Will Britton

20 Miles Reid

21 Max Green

22 Josh Lewis

23 Jack Wilson

Referee: Mike English

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