Preview: Newcastle v Bath

Date published: April 9 2015

Cross-code star Sam Burgess will start at blindside flanker for Bath on Friday when they travel north to face Newcastle Falcons.

Springbok flanker Francois Louw leads a side that features eight changes to that which encountered Leinster in the Champions Cup last weekend.

In the backs, Semesa Rokoduguni returns to the wing opposite Matt Banahan, and Ollie Devoto partners Jonathan Joseph in the midfield. Anthony Watson continues at full-back, whilst George Ford is joined in the half-backs by Peter Stringer.

Nick Auterac and Max Lahiff scrum down either side of Ross Batty at hooker as Matt Garvey combines with Dominic Day in the second row. Burgess and Leroy Houston complete the back row alongside Louw.

Stuart Hooper and Kyle Eastmond both miss the trip with slight knocks.

Meanwhile, Newcastle Falcons have made four changes to their starting line-up.

The changes in the back division see Simon Hammersley take over the full-back role from Alex Tait while Rory Clegg comes in for Tom Catterick at fly-half.

Hammersley’s first start since the 23-all draw against Wasps in the club's previous Friday night fixture, will see the 21-year-old make his 20th appearance in what has been an impressive campaign while Clegg has earned his first start since December against Stade Français.

In the forwards Calum Green returns to the starting line-up in place of Dom Barrow, while Chris York comes into the side for Will Welch. With York taking up station at number eight, his inclusion sees a further positional switch in the pack, with Mark Wilson moving across to the openside flank.

Form: Bath have beaten the Falcons in 18 of the last 19 encounters. The Falcons have won just once at Kingston Park in Aviva Premiership Rugby since November, with a 38-7 triumph over London Welsh in round 13. Bath have won on their last nine visits to Kingston Park since a 17-19 reversal in 2003. 

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Chris Harris, 13 Adam Powell (c), 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Ruki Tipuna, 8 Chris York, 7 Mark Wilson, 6 Richard Mayhew, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Eric Fry, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Sean Robinson, 21 Sonatane Takalua, 22 Tom Catterick, 23 Gonzalo Tiesi

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Francois Louw (c), 6 Sam Burgess, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Matt Garvey, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nick Auterac

Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Paul James, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Alafoti Faosiliva, 22 Micky Young, 23 Tom Homer

Date: Friday, April 10
Venue: Kingston Park, Newcastle
Kickoff: 19:45 local (18:45 GMT)
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson, Ashley Rowsen
TMO: Trevor Fisher