NEWCASTLE Falcons have transferred the captaincy from James Hudson to Rory Lawson for this afternoon’s top-versus-bottom clash at Doncaster Knights.
Club skipper Will Welch is poised to return from a back injury after being included on the bench.
However, with Ally Hogg still sidelined, director of rugby Dean Richards has switched leadership duties from former skipper Hudson to Scottish half-back Lawson in a potent-looking line-up.
Luke Fielden switches from wing to full-back as 18-year-old Zach Kibirige starts out wide, Tane Tu’ipulotu returning at inside centre in a side still without injured fly-half Jimmy Gopperth.
The only change to the pack which helped beat London Scottish 12-9 comes at loose-head prop where fit-again Jonny Golding replaces Grant Shiells, packing down against former Falcon Kieran Brookes who is on loan from Leicester Tigers.
Despite Doncaster sitting on the bottom of the table and having already been beaten twice by Newcastle this season, Richards said: “There have been a lot of changes to their management since we last played them.
“In many ways a lot of what we learnt during those games will not be that relevant.
“They are a good side and they can play decent stuff.
“At times they have caused problems for a lot of teams, but the area I would presume they will be looking to improve on is their consistency.
“The concern for every team they play against is that they finally manage to turn it on for the full 80 minutes, and we have to be wary of that.”
Looking to learn the lessons from a low-key last outing, Richardsadded: “Understanding how to play the conditions and the referee will be important, especially after our last game, and taking those factors out of the game is so important.
“Doncaster’s ground is a nice place to go and play after the work they have done there, they have a good pitch and the changing facilities are excellent.
“Winning there is by no means a given, even considering their league position.”
Newcastle Falcons: L Fielden, Z Kibirige, A Crockett, T Tu’ipulotu, R Shortland, J Hodgson, R Lawson (captain); J Golding, R Vickers, O Tomaszczyk, C Del Fava, J Hudson, M Wilson, R Mayhew, T Tu’ifua. Replacements: M Thompson, S Wilson, J Goode, W Welch, W Fury, W Luveniyali, J Helleur.
Doncaster Knights: D Mama, D Flockhart, W Simpson, J Tincknell, T Lewis, C Braid, L Silver; T Davies, R Buckley, K Brookes, M Challinor (captain), D Parsons, S Pailor, J Rawling, C Planchant. Replacements: W Hafu, B McGovern, T Francis, R Cadman, A Boyde, C Hallam, J Lennard.
Referee: I Tempest.