Team news: Hodgson returns against Bristol

Friday 17 May 2019 Written by: Adam

The fly-half suffered the injury in mid-November and forms part of a side skippered by scrum-half Michael Young, following his Try of the Season contender last time out at Gloucester.

Adam Radwan and Zach Kibirige team up on the wings with Vereniki Goneva and Sinoti Sinoti both ruled out by injury, Sam Lockwood returning at loose-head prop as Logovi’i Mulipola slides over to tight-head.

Despite having already been relegated from the top-flight director of rugby Dean Richards is keen to end the season with a win, saying: “There’s a lot riding on it for them in terms of Champions Cup qualification, but we’re also treating this as a real cup final.

“It’s our last Premiership game for 15 or 16 months, and we want to go out on a high.

“When we played down at Bristol in December we were 10 points up at half-time but went on to lose the game, and they have a really high quality squad who look to play an expansive style. Whoever comes to watch this game on Saturday will see a lot of tries, and it should be an entertaining 80 minutes.”

Having had relegation confirmed despite a huge effort in defeat at Gloucester a fortnight ago, Richards said: “We’ll play Championship rugby next season but we’re taking the bulk of the squad down with us, and it’ll be a really good squad which starts that Championship campaign.

“This season has been a really odd one. On the face it, when you look at the fact you’ve only won six league games you could be forgiven for thinking the end of the season can’t come quick enough, but we’ve had some high points. Winning away in Toulon was a great effort, as was Montpellier at home the week after, but we haven’t consistently won the games on a regular basis in the league that we needed to.

“The games we were winning last season by three or four points haven’t gone our way to the same extent, and those small differences over a year end up making a huge difference to where you finish up.

“From an experience point of view we lost a huge amount going into this season, with people like Nili Latu, Ally Hogg, Scott Lawson, Bobby Vickers and Maxime Mermoz, who, although he didn’t play that much, he did play a part. Those kinds of boys weren’t around this season, and we’ve learnt the hard way that losing that volume of experience really does count, even if those guys are coming off the bench to see games home rather than starting.

“We’ve learnt a lot of other things as well – notably that we need to score more tries.

“I know it’s an obvious thing to say and it’s not through lack of endeavour, because the boys try their socks off and we’ve put in place what we think is a good game plan, but we’ve not scored the number of tries we wanted. We’re looking at that seriously, and we’re really addressing it ahead of next season.”

Asked about the wider health of rugby in the North East following last weekend’s European finals, Richards said: “I thought the Heineken Champions Cup final had everything you could want in a game of top-class rugby, and it was a privilege to be there.

“There was drama, huge intensity, some great tries, the attritional nature that you really want in rugby and a massive gladiatorial contest. I just thought it was a brilliant day, staged remarkably well by the city of Newcastle and won by a very deserving Saracens side on the day.

“We’ve shown time and time again that Newcastle is not just a football city. Yes, Newcastle United will always be the No 1 draw, and that’s absolutely fine, but we’ve got major rugby finals here, England coming here, the Falcons playing at St James’ Park, rugby league’s World Cup coming here, we’ve got cricket down the road at Chester-le-Street, the Eagles basketball winning cup after cup – it’s a sports-mad region up here, it really is.

“Yet again we put on a real show here in Newcastle for the European finals – I don’t think there’s any other city could have hosted it as well as we did – and everybody who has come here is just full of praise for the whole weekend.”

Tickets for Saturday’s game are available by [**clicking here**][1].

**Newcastle Falcons team to face Bristol Bears (Saturday, 4pm, Kingston Park Stadium)**

15 Alex Tait

14 Zach Kibirige

13 Chris Harris

12 Johnny Williams

11 Adam Radwan

10 Joel Hodgson

9 Michael Young (captain)

1 Sam Lockwood

2 George McGuigan

3 Logovi’i Mulipola

4 Calum Green

5 Sean Robinson

6 Callum Chick

7 Gary Graham

8 Nemani Nagusa


16 Santiago Socino

17 Trevor Davison

18 David Wilson

19 Evan Olmstead

20 Jamie Blamire

21 Sam Stuart

22 Toby Flood

23 Josh Matavesi

**Bristol Bears**

15 Charles Piutau

14 Alapati Leiua

13 Piers O’Conor

12 Siale Piutau (co-captain)

11 Luke Daniels

10 Callum Sheedy

9 Harry Randall

1 James Lay

2 Harry Thacker

3 John Afoa

4 Ed Holmes

5 Chris Vui

6 Steve Luatua (co-captain)

7 Dan Thomas

8 Nick Haining


16 George Kloska

17 Jake Woolmore

18 Lewis Thiede

19 Jack Lam

20 George Smith

21 Nic Stirzaker

22 Tusi Pisi

23 Mat Protheroe

**Referee:** JP Doyle