Preview: Petrarca Padova v Newcastle

09th Oct 2009, 10:19

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Comeback change: Danny Williams

Comeback change: Danny Williams

Newcastle have named their side for Saturday's Amlin Challenge Cup opener in Italy, as the Falcons travel to face Petrarca Padova.

Newcastle have named their side for Saturday's Amlin Challenge Cup opener in Italy, as the Falcons travel to face Petrarca Padova.

Hooker Alex Walker and prop Laurence Ovens both make their maiden starts for the club after summer moves, in a side showing nine changes and one positional switch from that which faced domestic leaders Saracens last weekend.

A new-look front row is completed with the return of skipper Carl Hayman, while Mark Sorenson comes in at lock alongside Samoan international Filipo Levi.

Blindside Peter Browne and number eight Adam Balding freshen up the back row, with England U20 star Rob Miller starting at fly-half.

Springbok centre Gcobani Bobo takes the number thirteen shirt, with the only other change to the side coming on the right wing as fit-again Danny Williams takes his place after recent hamstring troubles.

"A few guys have been given a chance to show us what they can do, and some of those who have been playing well for the A-team now have an opportunity to really stake a claim for first team selection on a regular basis," said Bates.

"All of those guys have been with us all summer working hard in training, they deserve their chance and it will be interesting to see how they go. I'm excited about watching this team, there is interest right across the field and it should be a good test.

"We've taken the first five Premiership games as a block, and these next two matches in Europe give us a chance to look at a few other guys and make an assessment of where we are going into the next slice of Guinness Premiership games at Bath and home to Worcester."

Asked what he expects from Saturday's hosts, who suffered two 50-point defeats when the Falcons last met them three years ago in the same competition, Bates said he will not approach the game overconfident.

"Stuart Grimes played for them the season before last and knows most of their players so, that has been a valuable asset for us, and we've also been following their progress over the past few games," he said.

"They're up around the top three of the Italian league, and with a fly half like Ludovic Mercier we know they have someone who will punish any penalties in our own half and who will direct them around the field.

"They lost by two points away at Parma last weekend, and whilst we are obviously paying them every respect in preparing properly, the focus this week in training has been mainly on ourselves rather than over-analysing the opposition.

"There is an awful lot for us to play for in this next fortnight in terms of taking our own game forward, and this group of players is really looking forward to taking on that challenge.

"We know we need to make progress as a team, and this competition is an important part of that process."

Meanwhile, Petrarca Padova have named former Sale back Warren Spragg on the right wing as they look to shock the Falcons in their tournament opener at Stadio Plebiscito.

Ludovic Mercier will start from fly-half while Azzurri flanker Paul Derbyshire will look to lead the Italian pack against a physical English outfit.

The teams:

Petrarca Padova: 15 Martin Acuna, 14 Warren Spragg, 13 Alessandro Chillon, 12 Stefano Ambrosio, 11 Constantino Ricciardi, 10 Ludovic Mercier, 9 Nicola Leonardi, 8 Gonzalo Padrò, 7 Nicolas Galatro, 6 Paul Derbyshire, 5 Agustin Cavalieri, 4 Mattia Filippini, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Agustin Costa Repetto, 1 Chris Caporello.
Replacements: 16 Mariano Gastaldi, 17 Giovanni Marchetto, 18 Fabio Faggiotto, 19 Roberto Bertetti, 20 Emmanuel Billot, 21 Nicolò Borgato, 22 Doug Fletcher, 23 Matteo Sclosa.

Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Danny Williams, 13 Gcobani Bobo, 12 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Rob Miller, 9 Micky Young, 8 Adam Balding, 7 Ed Williamson, 6 Peter Browne, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Filipo Levi, 3 Carl Hayman (capt), 2 Alex Walker, 1 Laurence Ovens.
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Will Welch, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Charlie Amesbury.

Date: Saturday, October 10
Kick-off: 15:00 (14:00 BST)
Venue: Stadio Plebiscito
Referee: Jérôme Garces (France)
Assistant referees: Patrick Pechambert (France), Jérôme Lamirand (France)