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Lawson to make Falcons bow against Brive
SCOTLAND international Scott Lawson will make his Newcastle Falcons debut as Dean Richards' side look to maintain their position at the top of their Amlin Challenge Cup qualifying pool when they take on French club Brive tonight.
Falcons cross the Channel on the back of last weekend's hard-fought win in Bucharest, and with three of their final four pool matches at home, another win this evening would leave them extremely well-placed to reach the knock-out rounds.
Lawson was expected to be a key performer when he moved to Kingston Park in the summer, but the hooker has been sidelined since breaking his hand in Falcons' final pre-season game against Edinburgh.
However, he finally gets a chance to impress at the Stade Amedee-Domenech, and is one of eight changes from the side that scraped through in Romania.
Former Brive back Mike Blair is rested, but the Scotsman has been passing on plenty of tips about facing his erstwhile employers.
“Mike has filled us in with all the details,” said head coach Peter Russell. “They're a bit of an unknown quantity to us, so we just have to go off the knowledge that Mike has given us.
“So long as they haven’t got points on the board and we have, we’ll easily silence the fans, so the main thing is to make sure we go out and do what we have to do – silence the crowd, keep the scoreboard ticking over and play no mistake rugby.”
A trip to France represents one of the stiffest challenges in European rugby, but fly-half Phil Godman is confident his team-mates can handle what is likely to be a lively atmosphere.
“Playing in France is different to any other country,” said Godman. “People rightly talk about the passion of the home crowd, but if you flip that on its head they can also turn on their team quite quickly.
“When they get their tails up you notice the crowd and the role that they play and, while I always enjoy playing over there, it can be a hostile environment.”
Having beaten Worcester in the Aviva Premiership prior to travelling to Romania, a win this evening would make it three successes in a row ahead of next weekend's return to domestic action against London Irish.
“Momentum is a big factor and winning a third game in a row would give us a bit of a run with which to attack the London Irish match,” said Godman.
“Making some of those passes stick is going to be the key, and it is a big opportunity for some of the guys to really stake their claim for selection.”
Highly-rated youngster Scott Wilson will make his first start of the campaign at tight-head tonight, with fellow academy product Dom Barrow coming in for Harrison Collins in the back row.
There are five changes in the backline, with Godman, Alex Tait, Noah Cato, James Fitzpatrick and stand-in skipper Warren Fury all getting the nod.
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: Tait, Cato, Powell, Fitzpatrick, Shortland, Godman, Fury; Vickers, Lawson, S Wilson, McKenzie, Tomes, Barrow, M Wilson, York.
Replacements: McGuigan, Shiells, Tomaszczyk, MacLeod, Hogg, Pilgrim, Hodgson, Brown.
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