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Tait to make first Falcons league start
MICHAEL Tait will make his first league start for Newcastle Falcons as the Championship leaders look to maintain their 100 per cent record in this evening's home game with Moseley.
Tait has spent much of the season plying his trade with National One side Tynedale, but the Kelso-born centre will step up a level after impressing Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards in training.
Richards has made three changes to the side that scrapped their way to victory at Leeds last weekend, with James Goode replacing James Hudson in the second row and Ally Hogg returning to the back row after injury.
Falcons trounced Moseley when the two sides met at Billesley Common in October, and it will be a major surprise if they do not record another comfortable win tonight.
Newcastle need just 13 more points to guarantee a place in the end of the season play-offs, but as has been the case for the whole of the campaign, Richards is urging his players not to take their eye off the ball.
“The score perhaps did not demonstrate it fully in the end, but for most of the afternoon down there, Moseley gave us a really tough game,” he said. “We scored a couple of opportunist tries combined with some good team scores as the game went on, but it was a difficult assignment and we are not expecting anything easy when they come up here for the return leg.
“We have had a proper look at them, and they have some good players. Guys like Ben Pienaar and Charlie Hayter offer a lot, Neil Mason in the back row has been around the circuit and they are a decent side.
“For parts of the season it just hasn't clicked for them, which is a shame, but at some stage it is inevitable things will fall into place.”
Kingston Park stages a Falcons game for the first time in over a month after heavy snow forced the postponement of the Cornish Pirates fixture, and after encountering dreadful conditions in last weekend's win over Leeds, Richards is hoping for a better playing surface tonight.
“Hopefully, the weather will turn for us and give everyone a decent evening after a difficult few months,” he said. “It is nice to finally get a game on up here.
“We've had to put up with some horrendous conditions recently, and it would be nice to get a flat track and a bit of warmth because I feel a bit sorry for the players. They want to go out and play a bit of rugby, but it is tough when the weather is as bad as it's been.”
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: Catterick, Higgins, M Tait, Helleur, Shortland, Gopperth, Lawson; Golding, Vickers, Tomaszczyk, Goode, MacLeod, Tu'ifua, Welch, Hogg.
Replacements: Thompson, Hall, Hudson, Stedman, Pasqualin, Hodgson, Crockett.