NEWPORT are boosted for Newcastle’s visit to Rodney Parade tomorrow afternoon (kick-off 2.30pm) by the return of centre Adam Davies after a lengthy ankle injury.
But the bad news for the Black and Ambers is that influential prop Gethin Robinson won’t be making his comeback just yet as was hoped. He’s still out with a bicep injury.
It’s a big day for tighthead Dan Mathews, recently signed from Pontypool, who will make his debut in Robinson’s position.
Alex Jeffries, 17, was ineligible to play in the No 3 jersey according to British & Irish Cup regulations because he hasn’t yet celebrated his 18th birthday.
Relegated from the Aviva Premiership last season, Newcastle have been merciless in the Championship this campaign, winning 13 from 13, 11 in the league and also obtaining two big victories over Cross Keys and Connacht Eagles in the British & Irish Cup.
Newport hope it’s a case of history repeating itself tomorrow afternoon by looking back three years to when they shocked an unbeaten Exeter in the competition, the Chiefs having since made it into England’s top flight.
The Falcons come to Newport loaded with some impressive international experience.
Number eight Taiasina Tu’ifua was one of Wales’ tormentors in Samoa’s fully deserved 26-19 victory at the Millennium Stadium last month.
Tonga centre Suka Hufanga tasted sweet success when he starred in his country’s historic first ever win over Scotland in November.
At scrum half Newcastle have Scotland’s Rory Lawson, winner of 31 caps, as well as a blast from the past on the bench as backup.
Lawson’s replacement is Wales international Warren Fury who played in two Tests for Warren Gatland in their whitewash series defeat in South Africa as Grand Slam champions in 2008.
The Falcons are under the tutelage of Dean Richards, a two-time Heineken Cup winning coach at Leicester in 2001 and 2002.
The former Tigers, England and Lions number eight believes his side won’t have an easy ride this afternoon.
“We are expecting a tough battle against Newport – every Welsh side are well organised and hard to beat, but we have a good squad here at Kingston Park and I am looking forward to the test,” he said “It will be a difficult game for us and they will take us on up front.
“The Welsh always have half-backs that will test you, so it will certainly be a hard game down there.”
*l In the same group, last season’s finalists Cross Keys hope to kick start their cup campaign tomorrow with a victory over Connacht Eagles at Pandy Park (kick-off 2pm) who are also looking for their first triumph in the competition this term.
Luke Ford is back at centre for Keys after a shoulder injury and young prospect Scott Matthews gets a chance to show what he can do on the openside with captain Rob Nash ‘rested’ on the bench.
Newport : J Leadbeater, E Frewen, G O’Driscoll, A Davies, A Hewitt, S Sneddon, R Downes, D Pattison , R Prosser, D Mathews, D Rosser, A Frampton, B Lampitt, C Attwell (capt), C Everett. Reps : A Brown, J Jeune, L Randall, O Griffiths, D Franchi, T Hancock, A Quick.
Newcastle Falcons: J Gopperth, L Fielden, S Hufanga, J Helleur (capt), A Higgins, J Hodgson, R Lawson, G Shiells, M Mayhew, S Wilson, S Tomes, J Goode, C York, R Mayhew, T Tu’ifua Replacements: M Thompson, O Tomaszczyk, J Hudson, M Wilson, W Fury, W Luveniyali, J Fitzpatrick.
Referee: Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland) Cross Keys: G David, L Williams, L Andrews, L Ford, D Jones, S Jones, R James (capt), R Cornock, G Price, A Lott, O Hodge, D Hodge, T Lampard, S Matthews, A Powell. Replacements: J Johnstone, C Gould, G Horrigan, S Higgins, R Nash, R Dyer, D Gunter.