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Preview: Newcastle v Bristol

25th September 2008 11:33

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330 Tom May Newcastle Falcons

Middle man: Tom May slots in at centre for Friday's Guinness Premiership match

Steve Bates has made three changes to his Newcastle side for Friday's Guinness Premiership game against Bristol at Kingston Park.

Two of those changes come in the front row, where former All Black Joe McDonnell comes in at loosehead prop, whilst Matt Thompson is preferred to Andy Long at hooker.

The final change comes in the backs, with Spencer Davey dropping to the bench and Tim Visser getting a start on the wing. That means Tom May switches from wing to inside centre.

Meanwhile, Bristol coach Richard Hill has called up some of his more experienced players for the tough trip north still seeking that elusive first victory.

Kingston Park on a Friday night is not an easy place to emerge from with a win as Bristol found out two seasons ago when they took an unbeaten league record into the equivalent fixture but lost 26-21.

So Hill has turned to some of his battle-hardened veterans, with the likes of Matt Salter and Roy Winters for their first Guinness Premiership starts of the season and Mark Regan named amongst the replacements.

The backs are also reshuffled. Adrian Jarvis is ruled out having tweaked a knee against Sale last weekend with Ed Barnes taking over at fly-half.

Luke Arscott gets his first run out for the team at inside centre and Tongan international Vunga Lilo will make his full competitive debut for the club as he starts at full-back.

"We'll need as much experience as possible in the squad replying on Roy Winters, Matt Salter and Ronnie," said Hill, explaining why he had turned to some of his most trusted lieutenants this weekend.

"Having that morale in the dressing room makes a huge difference, especially when playing Newcastle on a Friday night away, which is very tough indeed...not an easy place to go and win.

"It's a very pivotal game for both but particularly for us because we don't have a win yet. There is a long way to go and we've only got as many points out of the three teams we've played so far as we did last year.

"So we're in the same position and we got ourselves out of it last year.

"But this time last year we beat Newcastle away and we have to put in as much effort to secure a win this Friday."

Form: Newcastle Falcons' only victory in their last five matches was 32-22 at home to Northampton two weeks ago. The Falcons have not won back to back home games in the Guinness Premiership since February. Bristol's poor run of nine successive Premiership defeats continued at home to Sale on Friday - their poorest sequence since they lost 13 in a row during season 1997/98. Newcastle's only win over Bristol in their last nine encounters since 2001 was 26-21 at Kingston Park on 3 November 2006.

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Tim Visser, 13 Jamie Noon, 12 Tom May, 11 John Rudd, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 James Grindal, 8 Phil Dowson (c), 7 Ed Williamson, 6 Adam Balding, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Andy Perry, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Joe McDonnell.

Replacements: 16 Andy Long, 17 Micky Ward, 18 Tim Swinson, 19 Russell Winter, 20 Hall Charlton, 21 Spencer Davey, 22 Rory Clegg.

Bristol: 15 Vunga Lilo, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Neil Brew, 12 Luke Arscott, 11 David Lemi, 10 Ed Barnes, 9 Graeme Beveridge, 8 Dan Ward-Smith, 7 Joe El Abd (c), 6 Matt Salter, 5 Nathan Budgett, 4 Roy Winters, 3 Jason Hobson, 2 Scott Linklater, 1 Alex Clarke.

Replacements: 16 Mark Regan, 17 Peter Bracken, 18 Robert Sidoli, 19 Andrew Blowers, 20 Haydn Thomas, 21 Chris Ashwin, 22 Greg Barden

Date: Friday 26 September, 2008

Kick-off: 20:00 BST (19:00 GMT)

Venue: Kingston Park

Referee: Chris White

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