NEWCASTLE Falcons welcome back a host of stars including Sinoti Sinoti for Friday’s Premiership Rugby Cup visit of Bath Rugby to Kingston Park Stadium (7.45pm).

In all the Falcons show nine changes from the team which won 23-21 at Harlequins last weekend, Newcastle currently level on points with Exeter Chiefs at the top of their group after two of the four pool rounds.

Michael Young and Joel Hodgson return to form the half-back pairing after steering Newcastle to Heineken Champions Cup victories over Toulon and Montpellier in the past month, the pair among a host of front-line players to have been rested over the past fortnight.

Johnny Williams is back to partner Pedro Bettencourt in midfield, the Portugese international having scored a try last weekend, while Sinoti returns on the left wing in a back three which sees Simon Hammersley at full-back and Alex Tait switching to the wing.

Tight-head Jon Welsh starts his first match this season after impressing from the bench during last weekend’s comeback game, George McGuigan coming in at hooker in a pack which also sees the return of lock Glen Young and flanker Gary Graham.

Toby Flood is named among the replacements after missing the last month with a shoulder injury, former Scotland flanker John Hardie also on the bench as he prepares for what would be his home debut.

Line-out coach Scott MacLeod said: “It will be an interesting game and we know what’s coming from Bath.

“They’re a big physical pack, and the battle for us starts there. I know it’s a cliché but it’s always true, and even though they’ve lost their first two games in the cup I know they’ll want to make a statement ahead of the Premiership re-match in a fortnight.”

Admitting selection had been difficult given the multitude of choices, the former Scotland lock said: “The Premiership Rugby Cup is an important stepping stone for us and a lot of lads are putting their hands up. They’ve been given opportunities, they’ve taken them and it leaves us in a good place.

“It’s important that the lads who played the first eight games of the season get a rest and it’s also important that other boys get a chance, so it’s been a very useful couple of weeks. The great thing has been the quality of performance from the players who’ve come in, and selection hasn’t been easy trying to balance the equation of guys who need a game and guys who’ve shown up really well these past few weeks.

“It’s great for me as a line-out coach to be working with the calibre of player we have at the Falcons, and even during the cup weekends we’ve had quality like Andrew Davidson and Glen Young showing up really well.

“Glen is incredibly athletic and you won’t find many locks anywhere who are as quick over the ground as him into a jump, and Andrew is rangier with his longer arms, so you have a bit of everything. You then add the likes of Calum Green, Will Witty, Sean Robinson, Tevita Cavubati and a number of others into the mix, and we’re pretty blessed at second row.”

Tickets for Friday’s game are available by calling 0871 226 6060.

Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley, Tait, Bettencourt, Williams, Sinoti, Hodgson, Young, Lockwood, McGuigan, Welsh, Green, Davidson, Burrows, Graham, Chick. Replacements: Cooper, Davison, Wilson, Young, Hardie, Stuart, Flood, Stevenson.