NEWCASTLE FALCONS welcome back two long-term injury victims as they return to European action with a home game against French side Bordeaux-Begles tomorrow afternoon.

Falcons will attempt to cement their position at the top of their Challenge Cup group after following up a win over Welsh side Dragons with an impressive 21-20 win in Bordeaux.

They have named Tom Penny and Sam Lockwood in their starting line-up, with the pair both having missed more than a year after suffering serious injuries.

Penny broke his arm in pre-season during the summer of 2016, and suffered a serious cruciate knee ligament injury in his comeback game, while Lockwood suffered an Achilles injury that sidelined him for more than 12 months.

The duo featured in last month’s A League win over Wasps, and return to senior action as part of an experimental Falcons line-up.

“We’ve gone for an exciting mix this week with experience in key positions alongside promising young players, and it’s good to be getting some of our long-term injured guys back,” said head coach Dave Walder. “It’s great to see both Sam and Tom returning after so long out – especially for Tom, who broke his arm and then came back only to do his ACL in his return match.

“It’s exciting for us because they’ve been back in full training for a while and are both impressing the coaches, they’re ready for this moment and they offer very different things.

“Sam will bring aggression up front, he won’t take any backward steps and will relish the collision and contact side of things. As for Tom, he hits hard for his size, has good hands and he’s a very skilful player, so from an energy and enthusiasm aspect they’ll both bring a lot to the table.”

Newcastle’s one-point win in Bordeaux was one of the highlights of the season so far, and while French sides might have a reputation for being poor travellers, Walder is expecting another tough examination at Kingston Park.

“Bordeaux have guys like Joe Worsley, Rory Teague and Jeremy Davidson on their coaching staff, bringing a bit more of a British mentality,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll come over here and be pretty tough, and these days I do think it’s a bit of a myth about the French not performing away from home.

“You see more away wins in the Top 14 now than you used to, and it’s possibly the influence of the overseas coaches and players. I think a lot of the perception of it is down to historical times when maybe it was more the case.

“We’re just focusing on ourselves rather than worrying too much about that. We play a good brand of rugby but we also have to be smart about when we decide to play. We have to put down a marker up front and take the game to them in that respect, putting in the odd drive, but we’re also aware of the need to move their big front five around the field when we get the chance. They key is being accurate with our basics, getting our depth right and holding onto the ball.”

Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley, Tait, Penny, Matavesi, Radwan, Willis, Stuart; Lockwood, Sowrey, S Wilson, Green, Witty, M Wilson, Graham, Burrows.

Replacements: Blamire, Vickers, Davison, Young, Orr, Hodgson, C Wilson, Kibirige.