ALEX TAIT will make a landmark 250th appearance for Newcastle Falcons when they travel to Leicester Tigers in the Gallagher Premiership on Sunday.

The County Durham full-back, who was raised in the Weardale village of Wolsingham, scored a hat-trick on his first-team debut back in January 2008, and becomes only the sixth Falcons player to reach the 250-mark in the professional era, following on from Micky Ward, Tom May, Rob Vickers, Matt Thompson and Jamie Noon.

“Alex is a great servant to the Falcons who always puts it in,” said director of rugby Dean Richards. “For any player to make 250 appearances for the same club in this day and age is a great achievement.”

England flanker Mark Wilson returns to captain the side at Welford Road on Sunday, with centre Pete Lucock set to make his first Premiership start after coming on twice as a replacement during the opening fortnight of the league campaign.

Prop Jon Welsh returns to first-team action having made his comeback from injury during last weekend’s 43-22 home victory over England Under-20s, with Darren Barry set to partner Sean Robinson in the second row.

On the Newcastle bench, there could be a first-team debut for Morgan Passman, the 21-year-old winger who was in contention to set a National One try-scoring record with Darlington Mowden Park prior to suffering a serious knee injury which kept him out of the game for more than a year. A former Yarm RFC player who progressed through the Falcons’ ACE scheme at Gosforth Academy, Passman also scored a try in last weekend’s game against England Under-20s.

Falcons suffered a narrow defeat to Wasps last Friday, and Richards admits his side have to cut out some of the ill-discipline that has proved costly.

“The last few weeks have been frustrating,” he said. “During the season up until that point we had probably shown the best disciplinary record in the Premiership, and we’ve given away more needless penalties during the last three weeks than we have all season.

“Our understanding of the consequences of giving away those penalties has cost us a couple of games, and that’s where our frustration lies. We’re not getting the rub of the green with certain things, I think that’s fair to say, but on the same token we’re not helping ourselves with some of the silly penalties we’re conceding.”

With his side having suffered a double sin-binning in their last game while defending their own try-line, Richards added: “It’s not unusual that teams will give away a couple of penalties during those gridiron-style periods that we have become accustomed to, but the ones that really get you are 60 or 70 yards up the field which invite that pressure on to you in the first place.

“We’re not alone, though. Leicester’s own disciplinary record isn’t great either, and we’ve had a long chat about it as a team. We need to get it back to where we were, which we will do, and it’s just something which has unnecessarily crept into our game.”

Will Welch is only eight games behind Tait on the appearance chart, and the flanker made his comeback from a calf injury last Friday only hours after the birth of his second son, Max.

“It was good to be back, although my lungs didn’t enjoy it that much,” joked Welch.