DEAN RICHARDS has handed rising star Zach Kibirige another chance to impress in Newcastle Falcons’ crucial Amlin Challenge Cup game at home to Brive tonight.
A win at Kingston Park will all but secure Richards’ side a place in the quarter-finals, and the Newcastle boss will continue his policy of blooding youngsters in the European competition.
Teessider Kibirige, in his first professional season at Falcons, has already made an impression on the wing in the Amlin Challenge Cup this season, scoring three tries, two of which came in a man of the match performance at Cammi Rugby Calvisano, and Richards knows he can handle the pressure.
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“Zach is a quality player and to get an opportunity to play a team like Brive is an experience that he will never forget,” said Richards of the Middlesbrough-born youngster, who helped Yarm School win the Daily Mail Schools Under-18 Vase at Twickenham last season.
“He will go into the game with no worries at all and he’s got nothing to prove to anyone, and he’ll go out there in a confident fashion.
“If he gets the opportunities out wide then he’ll finish them off, we just need to create those openings for him. Every time he’s had an opportunity in attack he’s nailed them.”
Richards, who knows a win will all but secure his side a place in the quarter-finals, is relishing the visit of the Top 14 club Brive.
“It’s always a tough encounter against the French, and with a quarter-final place at stake it will be even tougher,” he said.
“I’ve given a number of players an opportunity in the side tonight, and that’s not a reaction to how we’ve done in the league of late.
“This season we’ve always looked to blood our youngsters in this competition and this week is no different.
“It will take time for our youngsters to develop and ultimately make the grade, and experiences like tonight will make them better players.”
Skipper Will Welch replaces Andy Saull at openside flanker, while Richard Mayhew comes in for Mark Wilson in the back-row and Chris York starts at No.8. Sean Tomes gets the nod in the engine room alongside Scott MacLeod, with an unchanged front-row taking the field.
Tom Catterick pulls on the No.15 jersey, while fellow local talent James Fitzpatrick partners Adam Powell in the centres. Former RGS pupil Joel Hodgson occupies the fly-half berth alongside scrum-half Warren Fury.
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: Catterick, Kibirige, Powell, Fitzpatrick, Shortland, Hodgson, Fury; Vickers, Lawson, Brookes, Tomes, MacLeod, Mayhew, Welch, York. Replacements: McGuigan, Hallam, Wilson, Saull, Wilson, Pilgrim, Clegg, Cato.