FOR the second successive season Newcastle's Gareth Maclure has the chance to impress before a full house at Welford Road today.

Leicester Tigers can expect noisy backing from their fans as they can clinch the Premiership title with the expected victory against depleted Falcons.

Maclure scored a superb try on the right wing to take Newcastle into an unlikely 14-10 lead last season, but they eventually lost 34-26.

This time the Durham-raised 6ft 3in flier is likely to play at centre as Jamie Noon is out with a hamstring injury and Liam Botham has a shoulder problem.

Maclure, 21, has had his own injury troubles since bursting on to the scene at Leicester, but showed he is still very much around with an excellent try in the home defeat by Harlequins 11 days ago.

With lock Stuart Grimes and flanker Andy Mower on Scotland duty, Rob Andrew could surprise Leicester, as he did last season, by resting Jonny Wilkinson.

This is a match the Falcons are unlikely to win - they were the last team to win at Welford Road in their championship season three years ago.

Peter Massey is in the squad and will come in at full back if David Walder moves up to fly half for Wilkinson.

Jimmy Cartmel deputises for Mower at open side and Richard Arnold returns at blind side in place of Rob Devonshire.

Winger Chris Mattison could make a surprise comeback for Darlington Mowden Park today following successful acupuncture.

The former Durham City player opted for the radical treatment almost as a last resort after becoming frustrated with a calf injury which has kept him out since December 23.

Within four days he had felt a huge improvement and after two 80-minute training stints has declared himself available for the trip to Bradford and Bingley.

Whether he plays will probably depend on Mick Kent, who played with a shoulder problem last week because of the long casualty list among the backs.

Mark Bedworth was added to the list when he had to retire after putting in a big tackle, but it is hoped he will be fit.

Jonny Golightly remains doubtful, Phil Harvey is making encouraging progress, but Matt Howland has been out of circulation since suffering an ankle injury on his comeback after a back problem.

Mowden have an enforced change in the pack as Steve Sanderson is unavailable and is replaced at lock by Del Russell.

Mowden are hoping to rearrange their twice-postponed trip to Macclesfield for April 7, Durham Cup final day, but next week's game against Wigton is off.

As doubts grow about whether clubs like Wigton, Tynedale and Alnwick will play again this season because of foot-and-mouth, a meeting has been called next Tuesday to decide what to do.

Among the suggestions is to scrap the County Championship, which is due to start on April 16 but is bound to clash with rearranged league games. Another suggestion, which may well have to be adopted, is to decide the league tables on a percentage basis.

Things are fairly clear-cut in North One, except for the possibility of a third relegation place, which could depend on who comes down from National Three North.

Aspatria, one of the clubs hit by foot-and-mouth, are currently bottom, two points below Bedford Athletic and Sandal.

It would obviously benefit North One if Bedford were relegated as they would go into Midlands One, whereas Sandal would drop into North One.

That would probably force Middlesbrough down unless they can climb above Wigton on a percentage basis and they need to start by winning at Northern today.

If Wigton don't play again, Boro will need to win three of their five games.

Things are perfectly clear-cut in North Two East, where the suspension of Alnwick and Morpeth's fixtures would not affect matters at either end of the table.

Darlington can make absolutely certain of second place by winning at Redcar today and they have Phil Lancaster in the front row with Joe Osleton on the bench.

Paul Beattie continues his comeback from injury in the seconds, where the other winger, Tony Taylor, has scored eight tries in the last two games.

They are unlikely to shift Mark Butler from the first team as he has scored eight tries in the last seven matches, so Marc Potts is the winger under pressure.

Westoe have secured the one promotion place from Durham and Northumberland Division One, while division two should proceed to a normal conclusion with Billingham vying with North Shields for promotion behind Gosforth.

The picture in division three is slightly complicated by Ponteland being barred from playing home games as they are joint top with Guisborough.

Barnard Castle, whose game at Ponteland was postponed last week, are also in the frame, along with Seaton Carew