Greg Peterson returns from international duty as Newcastle Falcons prepare to host Bristol Bears in Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership clash.
The USA Eagle has missed the Falcons’ last two games due to Rugby World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay, but returns in a Newcastle side showing five changes from the one which took the field last weekend at Saracens.
Fellow lock George Merrick makes his competitive debut for the club following his summer move from Worcester Warriors, the only other change to the pack seeing Carl Fearns returning at No 8 after scoring in the Falcons’ last home game – an 18-14 victory against Wasps.
Winger Mateo Carreras makes his first appearance of the season having returned from international duty, the 21-year-old winning his first two caps for Argentina against Australia in the Rugby Championship.
Centre Max Wright comes in for his Falcons debut after joining on a three-month loan from Bath, while England hooker Jamie Blamire will make his 50th appearance should the 23-year-old Cumbrian be called upon from the bench.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s 3pm kick-off, director of rugby Dean Richards knows that Bristol will be looking to bounce back after a start to the season which has seen them losing three of their four games.
He said: “Bristol finished top of the table last season and play a really exciting brand of rugby with a host of international superstars in their side, so they’ll be disappointed with the start they’ve made.
“They’ll be hurting from last weekend’s defeat at Harlequins, and be wanting to make a statement.
“They play an expansive game, they have a huge threat around the base of the ruck and they’ve got a lively scrum-half. You have to respect the ability in their back row, and they’ve also got quality in their back line.”
Confident that his Newcastle side can lower their penalty count following last weekend’s loss at Saracens, the Falcons boss said: “We’re hungrier than ever, we’ll learn from our mistakes and we certainly can’t be giving away 20 penalties in a game.
“Our discipline has actually been pretty good over the last few years, so we’re disappointed to have slipped the way we did. It won’t be an issue going forward, it was just unfortunate that a blip like that cost us dear.
“We can sit there and say we deserved something from the game, but there are no gifts in sport and you have to earn everything.
“We had an opportunity to take a point, or even more, but we didn’t, and we’ll learn from it and move on. The players were very disappointed in the changing room after the final whistle, but we have to channel that in a positive manner this weekend against Bristol.”
Having seen full-back Mike Brown scoring a try on his competitive debut for the Falcons last time out, Richards said of the 72-cap veteran: “I thought Mike played well, but he had to play well, because Tom Penny has been excellent for us in the preceding three games.
“One of the beauties here at the moment is that we have huge competition among the squad, but we’re obviously delighted with the fact that Mike came in last weekend and played as well as we know he can. He’ll know that one good game in isolation doesn’t mean much, and like everyone will be after that week in, week out consistency.
“As well as his ability on the field one of the things we spoke about when we signed him was his ability to work with and mentor our young players, and he has been doing that extremely well. Even just by how he goes about his work every day he’s been raising the standards, and that’s great to see.”
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Newcastle Falcons team to face Bristol Bears (Saturday, 3pm, Kingston Park Stadium)
15 Mike Brown, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Ben Stevenson, 12 Max Wright, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Louis Schreuder; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Trevor Davison, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 George Merrick, 6 Callum Chick, 7 Will Welch (captain), 8 Carl Fearns.
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Will Montgomery, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, 22 Will Haydon-Wood, 23 George Wacokecoke.
Bristol Bears: 15 Ioan Lloyd, 14 Toby Fricker, 13 Jack Bates, 12 Antoine Frisch, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Harry Randall; 1 Yann Thomas, 2 Jake Kerr, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Dave Attwood (captain), 5 Joe Joyce, 6 Sam Jeffries, 7 Dan Thomas, 8 Fitz Harding.
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 John Afoa, 19 John Hawkins, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Tom Whiteley, 23 Charlie Powell.
Referee: Christophe Ridley