Falcons make positional changes for Bears clash

Falcons make positional changes for Bears clash

Newcastle Falcons have named their side for Sunday’s Gallagher Premiership trip to Bristol Bears.

The 3pm kick-off at Ashton Gate sees England Under-20s star Oli Spencer (pictured) starting at outside centre, with Iwan Stephens in on the wing.

Ben Redshaw moves to full-back with a shoulder injury ruling out Elliott Obatoyinbo – Newcastle’s other changes coming in the forward pack.

Adam Brocklebank comes in at prop, while fellow loose-head Mark Dormer could make his Gallagher Premiership debut after being named on the bench – injury having ruled out Phil Brantingham (thumb) and Murray McCallum (calf).

Scrum-half Max Pepper is another player in line for his Gallagher Premiership bow after being included among the replacements, with the 22-year-old Durham University student having scored on his competitive debut for the Falcons in September – a 66-13 Premiership Rugby Cup win over Caldy.

Pepper’s younger brother Guy continues to be unavailable due to a quadriceps injury, and scrum-half Ben Douglas is sidelined while he completes his return to play protocols.

Bristol old boy Bryan Byrne is on the bench for a game which is being shown live on Discovery+ and the TNT Sports red button, with Newcastle’s last game seeing them narrowly missing out on a home win over Leicester Tigers despite playing more than 20 minutes of added time.

“We’ve put it to bed now, and all the focus is on going down Ashton Gate on Sunday,” said consultant director of rugby, Steve Diamond.

“It’s a big pitch, Bristol play an entertaining brand of rugby and we’re basically up against the Harlem Globetrotters with the names they’ve got and the way they use the ball.

“We’ve got to be able to cope with that and deal with the high ball, because Bristol are a side who don’t kick the ball off the field. They’ve got some very powerful runners, certainly in the backs, and they score an average of five or six tries a game by throwing the ball from everywhere.

“We know we’ve got to score tries to stay in it, and we do that by doing our basics right and making it an arm wrestle. When we have the ball we’ve got to attack their wide channels, where they’re not always great at defending, and if we can do all that then we stand a chance.”

Asked about the signs of improvement during his two league games in charge, Diamond said: “There were loads of little wins for us within both the Exeter and the Leicester games, but ultimately this is a results business and we don’t want to be known as that ‘nearly team’.

“The Leicester game is one we could and should have won, and the players know it. There were a lot of positives, which I hate saying when we’ve not got the win, but we’ve reflected on it and have had a good week in training.

“We’ve put ourselves in positions to close games out and shown loads of positive signs in the process, but the next step for us is to convert it into victories. I’ve got absolute belief that we will do it between now and the end of the season, and I have to say the players’ attitude has been absolutely brilliant.

“Some of these guys have just been told they don’t have jobs beyond the end of the season, but the way they’re applying themselves every day in training is first class.

“They’ve got some direction now and they’re doing a lot of the right things. It’s just a case of pulling it all together on the day and doing it for the full 80 – or maybe the full 100 minutes if our last game is anything to go by!”

Newcastle Falcons team v Bristol Bears (Sunday, 3pm, Ashton Gate, live on Discovery+)

15 Ben Redshaw, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Oli Spencer, 12 Tom Penny, 11 Iwan Stephens, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Sam Stuart; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 Jamie Blamire, 3 Richard Palframan, 4 Tim Cardall, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Philip van der Walt, 7 Sam Cross, 8 Callum Chick (captain).

Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Mark Dormer, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 John Kelly, 20 Freddie Lockwood, 21 Max Pepper, 22 Rory Jennings, 23 Matias Moroni.

Not available for selection: Phil Brantingham, Ben Douglas, Murray McCallum, Kiran McDonald, Elliott Obatoyinbo, Guy Pepper, Hugh O’Sullivan, Pedro Rubiolo, Ben Stevenson.

Bristol Bears: 15 Max Malins, 14 Siva Naulago, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 James Williams, 11 Gabriel Ibitoye, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Harry Randall; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Gabriel Oghre, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 James Dun, 5 Josh Caulfield, 6 Steven Luatua, 7 Fitz Harding (captain), 8 Magnus Bradbury.

Replacements: 16 Will Capon, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Joe Owen, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Virimi Vakatawa, 23 Rich Lane.

Referee: Luke Pearce.

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