Thursday 29 August 2013 Written by: Adam

Falcons chief Dean Richards takes a strong squad to the Borders as preparations intensify ahead of next Friday’s Aviva Premiership opener with Bath under the lights of Kingston Park.

Seven changes in all have been made from the team that defeated RaboDirect Pro12 outfit Connacht 23-10 last weekend with a series of players opening up their account with the North East club.

Franck Montanella and Kieran Brookes come into the front row alongside Scotland international Scott Lawson, while summer signings Fraser McKenzie and Andy Saull get their chance to shine with Scott MacLeod and skipper Will Welch rounding off the changes upfront.

After impressing off the bench against Connacht, Phil Godman gets the nod at fly-half with Jamie Helleur starting at inside centre.

Captaining the Falcons for the second year running, former RGS pupil Welch, 23, said: “Edinburgh will be a tough test for us, and the game will provide us with another opportunity to iron things out in the build-up to next week.”

The Edinburgh clash marks the return of Falcons favourite MacLeod back to his hometown club of Hawick RFC. Double award winner, MacLeod, 34, is relishing tomorrow evening’s trip, adding: “It will be a proud moment for me to be playing in front of my loved ones in what will be a terrific occasion for the Borders public.

“The Borders has a strong connection with Newcastle Falcons with a number of players from the region going on to represent the club.

“It’s an absolute honour for the Borders to be hosting the game, and I know they can’t wait to welcome both sides to Mansfield Park.”

**Newcastle Falcons**: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Andy Higgins, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Franck Montanella, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Will Welch (c), 7 Andy Saull, 8 Ally Hogg

**Replacements**: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Matt Thompson, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Dominic Barrow, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Adam Powell, 24 Alex Tait