Planet Rugby

Preview: Newcastle v Albi

16th October 2009 11:01

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Will Welch Newcastle Falcons

Home debut: Will Welch

Newcastle Falcons hand a debut to Tongan international flanker Josh Afu at Kingston Park on Sunday, as they host French side Albi in the second round of the Amlin Challenge Cup.

The former Queensland Red forms part of a side containing six changes from the one which sent the Falcons to the top of the Pool 5 standings last Saturday, courtesy of their bonus point victory at Italian side Petrarca Padova.

England Under-20s forward Will Welch makes a home debut on the openside flank after an impressive cameo last weekend in Italy, while James Hudson slots into the second row as Samoan international Filipo Levi reverts to number eight

The only other change to the pack sees Matt Thompson back at hooker, while behind the scrum Jimmy Gopperth takes over from Rob Miller at fly-half. Charlie Amesbury slots in at full-back with Alex Tait ruled out injured.

Director of rugby Steve Bates is without a handful of his first team squad for this weekend, with Jon Golding, Rob Vickerman, Tim Swinson, Chris Micklewood and Michael Tait among those to be sidelined.

Bates said he was looking to build on the result, if not necessarily the performance, last Saturday.

"The Padova game was unique in many ways, not least the conditions in which it was played, because I don't think I've ever seen rain of that like before in my whole life," he said.

Looking to Sunday's tussle against an uncompromising Albi side from South-West France, Bates was cautious.

"They might be bottom of the Top 14, but from the tapes we've watched and having looked at their results they have actually been competitive even against some of the very top teams in France," he said.

"They will be a very tough, uncompromising sort of opposition with a real physical threat, and if we go into the game with any other expectations then we will come unstuck. They have had a few guys suspended this weekend for disciplinary issues from a recent Top 14 game, but the players filling those gaps will be just as keen to slot in and prove a point to the coaches."

Albi's team is considerably stronger than the one that lost to Montauban last week, includng Argentina's forgotten man Lucas Borges, regular goal-kicker Frédéric Manca and Samoan international flanker Daniel Farani.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Charlie Amesbury, 14 Danny Williams, 13 Gcobani Bobo, 12 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Micky Young, 8 Filipo Levi, 7 Will Welch, 6 Josh Afu, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 James Hudson, 3 Carl Hayman (c), 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Laurence Ovens.

Replacements: 16 Alex Walker, 17 Micky Ward, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Brent Wilson, 20 Peter Browne, 21 Hall Charlton, 22Rob Miller, 23 Tom Catterick.

Albi: 15 Benjamin Lapeyre, 14 Pierre-Gilles Lakafia, 13 Dom Feau'nati, 12 John Stewart, 11 Lucas Borges, 10 Frédéric Manca, 9 Sébastien Pages, 8 Florent Fourcade, 7 Daniel Farani, 6 Clément Maynadier, 5 Thomas Vervoort, 4 Yogane Correa, 3 Martin Gady, 2 Pierre Saby, 1 Stéphane Delpuech.
Replacements: 16 Cyriac Ponnau, 17 Nicolas Frize, 18 Ronny Sua, 19 Anthony Poujol, 20 Baptiste Hecker, 21 Michel Denetre, 22 Dave Vainqueur, 23 Vincent Clement.

Date: Sunday, October 18
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 15.00 BST
Referee: Carlo Damasco

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