DEAN RICHARDS is refusing to throw in the towel while there is still the slightest chance of Newcastle Falcons remaining in the Gallagher Premiership.

Falcons play their penultimate game of the season at Gloucester this afternoon, and will travel to Kingsholm nine points adrift of their closest rivals, Leicester Tigers.

With bonus points factored in, there are ten points still to play for, but while the odds are firmly stacked against Falcons avoiding the drop to the Championship, Richards has not admitted defeat.

“Everybody has written us off, but we’ve just got to go out there and perform with the control and composure needed to win a game of Premiership rugby,” said Newcastle’s director of rugby. “We’ve given it our all in the last couple of matches, but just not with the level of control required at this level.

“There are such small margins in this league and so many good teams - it’s incredibly unforgiving. Whoever ends up getting relegated, whether it’s us or Leicester Tigers, it’ll be a good team who goes down. It’s a shame, but that’s what promotion and relegation is there for, and when you have a league of 12 good teams that’s just the reality of the situation.”

For Falcons to have any chance of survival, they have to win their remaining matches against Gloucester and Bristol. They also need Leicester to lose their final two games, and while the Tigers have shown signs of revival in recent weeks, they face a difficult run-in.

“When you look at what Leicester have got – Harlequins away and Bath at home – they’re both difficult games, and there’s a glimmer of a chance for us,” said Richards. “If Leicester lose this weekend and we win at Gloucester, then who knows what happens in round 22?

“Bath will be going up to Leicester with something to play for, so there’s a chance. It’s a slim chance, and we do understand that, but the boys here are going all-out to make it happen.”

Scotland centre Alex Dunbar will make his first league start for Falcons this afternoon, replacing compatriot Chris Harris in the centres.

Alex Tait comes in at full-back with a head knock ruling out Simon Hammersley, Zach Kibirige replaces the injured Vereniki Goneva on the wing, and Michael Young comes in at scrum-half as Falcons attempt to secure a third successive league victory at Kingsholm.

England flanker Mark Wilson misses out after picking up a hamstring injury, with Callum Chick coming in, while Sean Robinson makes his first start since December having returned from a broken arm.

Newcastle Falcons (vs Gloucester): Tait, Kibirige, Dunbar, Williams, Sinoti, Flood, Young; Mulipola, McGuigan, Ah You, Green, Robinson, Chick, Graham, Nagusa.

Replacements: Socino, Lockwood, Davison, Witty, Blamire, Stuart, Swiel, Wacokecoke.