Preview: Newcastle v Bath

Date published: April 29 2011

Captain James Hudson makes a welcome return to the Falcons' pack for Saturday's Aviva Premiership showdown with Bath.

Newcastle captain James Hudson makes a welcome return to the Falcons pack for Saturday's Aviva Premiership showdown with Bath at Kingston Park.

Hudson has responded well to treatment for a knee injury which has kept him out of action for the northeasterners' last three games.

Head coach Alan Tait has made three further changes, with Tim Swinson starting in the engine room, while Gcobani Bobo (wing) and Micky Young (scrum-half) also get the nod respectively.

There also places on the bench for Kiwi Jeremy Manning following a hip injury and James Fitzpatrick, who has impressed this season.

“As a coach you'd love to think you are safe, but you can never have that luxury in this game,” said Tait.

“I'm not going to say we are there yet, and there's no chance of that until it's mathematically certain. I have said all along that I am prepared for it to go right down to the very last whistle, and that has always been the way I have approached it.

“Whatever happens this weekend there is always a mathematical chance for Leeds, and we have to keep battling away until the end.

“We are not going to settle for a bonus point on Saturday, because we go into every game trying to win. It is all about points, and it might come down to a single one, but you have to go for all four when you run out at the start of the game,” he added.

Bath come into this weekend's encounter on the back of a no-nonsense 44-10 victory over Wasps at Twickenham. An assured display by the West Country outfit had not gone unnoticed by the Falcons boss, who insists Bath will play with 'no fear'.

“The key for Bath is that they are in that middle part of the table. They probably won't get into the top four, but they are virtually assured of a Heineken Cup place,” he said.

“Their head coach Steve Meehan is leaving the club at the end of the season – they are all comfortable with that, and they can play with no fear.

“They will have no nerves at all, and that is when you sometimes find teams can be at their most dangerous. I don't want our lads to freeze, because if we play the way we are doing then I think we will do well.

“We won't be changing too much, and we know there are a couple of areas where we can attack. I would hope there is no fear in our team, and we have just kept doing what we believe in.”

Meanwhile, Bath have named an unchanged starting line-up to the one that soundly beat London Wasps last weekend.

The first in a double header of games against the Falcons, Bath know that a win is vital to ensure Heineken Cup rugby next season, and to keep their hopes alive of a top four finish.

Nick Abendanon takes his place at full-back, with Jacques Boussuge and last weekend's hat-trick hero, Tom Biggs, starting outside on the wings.

Last weekend's other try-scorers, Matt Banahan and Matt Carraro, continue their partnership in the centres, as do Sam Vesty and Michael Claassens in the half-backs.

In the pack, David Flatman and David Wilson scrum down either side of Lee Mears, with the experienced Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe and Danny Grewcock adding power in the locks. Ben Skirving, Lewis Moody and Simon Taylor complete the line-up in the back row.

This match is a rearrangement, originally postponed on 3rd December 2010 due to snow.

Form: Newcastle require six points from their remaining two league games, less with every point Leeds drop in their one remaining match, to be safe from the threat of relegation. The Falcons have slipped to six straight defeats in all competitions and play a fourth successive Premiership encounter at Kingston Park. Bath must win their final two matches to give themselves a chance of reaching the Aviva Premiership semi-finals. Bath have won their last three games against Exeter, Harlequins and Wasps. Newcastle have won only one of their last dozen matches against Bath in all competitions since 2004: 27-16 at The Rec on 24 October 2009. Bath have won on their last six visits to Kingston Park.

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Luke Fielden, 13 Rob Vickerman, 12 Tane Tuipulotu, 11 Gcobani Bobo, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Micky Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch, 6 Tim Swinson, 5 Andrew van der Heijden, 4 James Hudson (c), 3 Euan Murray, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Jonny Golding.
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Mark Wilson, 20 Alex Gray, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 James Fitzpatrick, 23 Jeremy Manning.

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Jacques Boussuge, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Sam Vesty, 9 Michael Claassens (c), 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Lewis Moody, 6 Ben Skirving, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, 3 David Wilson, 2 Lee Mears, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Duncan Bell, 19 Josh Ovens, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Mark McMillan, 22 Butch James, 23 Nick Scott.

Referee: J P Doyle