NEWCASTLE FALCONS have made ten changes for this afternoon’s Championship Cup trip to Doncaster Knights, where victory would guarantee the club a home quarter-final.

Will Welch captains the group leaders in their 2.30pm kick-off at Castle Park, with Philip van der Walt moving to blind-side flanker as Nemani Nagusa comes in at number eight.

Sebastian de Chaves and Sean Robinson return to the side as director of rugby Dean Richards rotates his second-row resources, Mark Tampin added to a front-row which sees Sam Lockwood and Jamie Blamire retained from the side which defeated Hartpury 50-10 last time out.

Sam Stuart and Joel Hodgson form a freshened-up half-back pairing, George Wacokecoke coming in on the right wing. Ben Stevenson occupies the other wing in a start to the season which has seen him scoring five tries in six games, while Dominic Waldouck and Tom Penny return to make up the midfield.

Alex Tait switches from wing to full-back, Newcastle’s bench including hooker George McGuigan ahead of what would be his 100th appearance for the club.

“We’ve played Doncaster quite a few times in recent years, mainly in pre-season friendlies, and we’ve had quite a few of our boys going there on dual-registration over the past few seasons,” said head coach Dave Walder. “Rob Farrar has even been there this season, so I think both clubs have got a good idea of what each other is about.

“We know their coaching team well, too, and Clive Griffiths has done a great job down there. He always over-achieves considering the budget he has got to work with, and we know it’s a difficult place to go.

“We’re excited about the group of players we’re sending down to Doncaster, and the cup is a very important competition for us.

“We are where we are at the top of the group, we’re taking it very seriously and we want to win some silverware. Yes, our goal for the season is to win the league and get promoted back to the Premiership, but the cup is a competition to be won and we’d love to achieve that.

“Winning would secure us a home quarter-final, which again is important, and it’s another opportunity for our players to showcase their ability. They’re an absolute joy to work with, they’ve got heaps of ability and I’m looking forward to seeing their continued progression.”

Able to maintain the strength of his side despite making ten changes this weekend, Walder added: “The strength in depth of our squad at the moment is phenomenal, and we’ve got that mixture of experienced guys, younger guys and some who just need some game time.

“That’s not a bad position to be in as a club and we want to play an exciting brand.”