Team news: Welch back for Bordeaux clash

Friday 20 October 2017

Newcastle Falcons captain Will Welch returns for Saturday’s trip to Bordeaux-Begles as the two unbeaten teams in European Challenge Cup Pool One meet at Stade Chaban-Delmas.

Welch (pictured) comes in as one of six changes from the side which defeated Welsh side Dragons 32-27 in last weekend’s opener, the flanker replacing Mark Wilson on the blind-side.

Calum Green comes in for Will Witty at lock in a team which sees Scottish duo Scott Lawson and Jon Welsh added to the front row, director of rugby Dean Richards reshuffling his back line for the 6.30pm local time kick-off (5.30pm UK time).

The two personnel changes behind the scrum see Josh Matavesi and Chris Harris coming in for Joel Hodgson and Simon Hammersley – Matavesi starting at inside centre as Toby Flood shifts across to fly-half, and Harris coming in on the wing as Alex Tait drops to full-back.

Scrum-half Michael Young could be set for a first outing of the season after returning from injury to take up a place on the bench, Richards saying: “Bordeaux are a quality side.

“They thumped Enisei in Siberia last weekend, they’ve gone well in the Top 14 this season and from our perspective it’s going to be a hard game. The French sides spend a lot of money and they’ve all got quality squads these days, and Bordeaux will certainly be a difficult side to turn over.

“They are a team who start well and they get most of their points on the board early, so there’s a big emphasis on making sure we come out firing. We can’t sit back and wait for them to hit us, we’ve got to be aggressive in that sense but it’s the kind of barrage we face every week in the Aviva Premiership.”

Placed fourth in the Premiership after a strong start, the Falcons began their European campaign with a five-pointer last weekend and are determined to attack a competition which will see its final being held in Newcastle in 2019.

Richards said: “Our away form has been better this season and we’re improving as a team. An old coach once told me rugby is 51% defence and 49% attack, and we’ve been defending more effectively this season in terms of closing out some tight games. Our attack is functioning fairly well too, and we’re looking forward to what should be a good game over there.

“You only have to look at the quality of the sides we are fielding to see how we are approaching the European Challenge Cup this year. Last season or the year before we wouldn’t have been able to put out a side as strong as this week and last week, and that improved quality and depth means we can be far more competitive on multiple fronts. We’re going into this tournament with a viewpoint to proceed as far as we can, and we believe we can be far more competitive this time round.

“We’re by no means getting ahead of ourselves because we know we’ve got to win this weekend, or certainly come away with something. Bordeaux getting the five points in Russia means we can’t leave France empty-handed, and if we do then it’s going to be difficult for us. We want to make progress but we’re not looking beyond Saturday, because we know it will be a significant contest in terms of how the group pans out.”

Offering qualified praise of last weekend’s 32-27 victory, the Falcons boss added: “We sat down as a squad after the Dragons game and we were quite disappointed with our accuracy on the day but, having said that, we still scored four tries playing at about 65% of our capability.

“You can’t be doing too badly if you’re still producing the result when you’re not playing that well, but we know there’s room for improvement and we’re working hard to bring that out on the field. By our own admission we took our foot off the gas a bit last weekend, and we can’t be that complacent again on Saturday.”

Having finally had the opportunity to start summer signings Toby Flood and Maxime Mermoz in competitive action, Richards said: “Overall I was pleased with them, although understandably they were a little bit rusty in terms of some our shape and the way we want to play.

“That’s maybe why we were a little bit frustrated at times, but that will come the more they play. You can see with Maxime’s French flair there were times when he was wanting to play and Toby was saying let’s kick it, but ultimately they’ll develop a working relationship which will suit both parties. Both of them have played in World Cup finals and won multiple trophies, and they have a level of quality which will shine through.”

Newcastle Falcons team to face Bordeaux-Begles (Saturday, 6.30pm French time, 5.30pm UK time, Stade Chaban-Delmas)

15 Alex Tait

14 Chris Harris

13 Maxime Mermoz

12 Josh Matavesi

11 Adam Radwan

10 Toby Flood

9 Sam Stuart

1 Rob Vickers

2 Scott Lawson

3 Jon Welsh

4 Calum Green

5 Sean Robinson

6 Will Welch (captain)

7 Gary Graham

8 Ryan Burrows


16 Ben Sowrey

17 Sami Mavinga

18 Scott Wilson

19 Glen Young

20 Mark Wilson

21 Michael Young

22 Cameron Cowell

23 Craig Willis


15 Matthieu Jalibert

14 Nans Ducuing

13 Pablo Uberti

12 Apisai Naqalevu

11 Jean-Baptiste Dubié

10 Simon Hickey

9 Yann Lesgourgues

1 Sébastien Taofifenua

2 Adrien Pélissié

3 Vadim Cobilas

4 Luke Jones

5 Jandré Marais

6 Marco Tauleigne

7 Alexandre Roumat

8 Leroy Houston


16 Ole Avei

17 Thierry Paiva

18 Marc Clerc

19 Johan Aliouat

20 Cameron Woki

21 Jules Gimbert

22 Christian Schoeman

23 Metuisela Talebula

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)

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