Newcastle travel to France to begin their European Challenge Cup campaign against Brive on Friday evening: 18:30 kick-off
Falcons have lost all four of their Aviva Premiership matches, failing to pick up a single point
19 of the visitors 23 matchday squad count as England qualified
Brive are fifth in the Top 14 after eight rounds of fixtures
BY STEVEN SMITH
Newcastle Falcons will look to get their season back on track when they travel to Brive in the opening round of European Challenge Cup on Friday evening.
The visitors’ matchday squad sees 19 of the 23 players count as England qualified as Newcastle, similar to in previous campaigns, proceeds to embrace the competition as a platform to allow its homegrown talent an opportunity to make an impact.
Rotation and plenty of it is also probably a good idea for Newcastle’s Director of Rugby Dean Richards as after four consecutive lacklustre defeats in the Aviva Premiership change was a necessity.
The wholesale changes to the team beaten by Worcester firstly sees the return of Mark Wilson, who captains the Falcons on his return from injury.
Familiar faces Micky Young and Tom Catterick line up as the starting half-backs while pace on the wings is provided by former England 7s star Marcus Watson and Argentine international Belisario Agulla.
Meanwhile, Brive, whose squad is made up of predominantly French, South African and Georgian stars, come into the game in a healthy league position after winning five of their opening eight games in the Top 14.
Flanker Said Heriche will captain the french for their Challenge Cup opener while Gaetan Germain, the top points scorer so far in this season’s Top 14 with 100, is rested along with many of their stars for the visit of Newcastle.
This is the sixth time the Falcons have been drawn with 1996/97 Heineken Cup Champions since 2005 with 10 previous meetings to date and the honours heading into Friday night are split at five wins apiece.
With both sides making wholesale changes ahead of tonight’s clash its hard to make any conclusive predictions, although it would be great to see the Falcons’ predominantly English team come away with the win. However, the hosts are unbeaten at home in the Top 14 this season, overcoming the likes of Toulon on that run, showing that they simply must be the favourites here against a struggling Falcons side. CA Brive by 12
PLAYERS TO WATCH
CA Brive: Malakai Radikedike
The powerful Fijian wing has not been a regular for Brive in recent weeks, but has the physical presence and burst of speed over a short distance to cross the whitewash if he is given even half a chance.
Newcastle Falcons: Belisario Agulla
A recent addition to the Falcons, Agulla will be looking to show the Falcons what he is capable of when he starts against Brive on Friday night. The wing wizard, who joined from Top 14 side Agen in the summer, will be hoping to show the international pedigree that has seen him win 11 caps for Argentina, scoring seven tries.
CA Brive: 15 Romain Sola 14 Malakai Radikedike, 13 Atila Septar, 12 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 11 Benito Masilevu, 10 Nicholas Bezy, 9 Bastien Duhalde, 1 Damian Lavergne, 2 Thomas Acquier, 3 Giorgi Jgenti, 4 Victora Lebas, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 6 Saïd Hireche, 7 Poutasi Luafatu, 8 William Whetton
Replacements: 16 Guillaume Ribes, 17 Goderdzi Shvelidze,18 Yusuf Tuncer, 19 Peet Marais, 20 Hugues Briatte, 21 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 22 Benjamin Petre, 23 Anderson Neisen.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Craig Willis, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Tom Penny, 12 Chris Harris, 11 Belisario Agulla, 10 Tom Catterick, 9 Michael Young, 1 Alex Rogers, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Taione Vea, 4 Sean Robinson, 5 Kane Thompson, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Daniel Temm, 8 Mark Wilson (c)
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Andrew Foster, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Calum Green, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Dan Marshall, 23 Callum Chick.
Date: Friday, November 13th
Venue: Stade Amédée-Domenech