SO much for a midnight train to Georgia then. Newcastle Falcons’ 3,000-mile journey to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi for their final European Challenge Cup pool game involved two flights, three coach journeys and an impromptu attempt to push a bus out of a ditch, but Dean Richards and his players are finally ready to confirm their place in the knock-out stages of the competition.

Having travelled from Newcastle to Edinburgh, the first leg of the Falcons’ trip to face Russian side Enisei-STM saw them fly from the Scottish capital to Istanbul. A routine airport transfer turned into an unexpected adventure when their Turkish hire coach ended up in a ditch, and despite the best attempts of players and members of the backroom staff, it could not be moved. Clearly, that Newcastle scrum still needs some working on.

A replacement minibus was located, and the travelling party were eventually able to catch a second flight taking them to Tbilisi, where they will line-up for tomorrow afternoon’s game.

Falcons, who are already guaranteed a home Challenge Cup quarter-final on Easter weekend, will start as firm favourites after trouncing Enisei 64-7 on home soil last weekend, but yesterday’s mishap might not be the only difficulty that presents itself tomorrow. Playing on the pristine 3G surface at Kingston Park is one thing – taking on Russian opposition in the wilds of the former Soviet Union is quite another.

“One of the things we’ve got to be aware of is that Enisei will be doubly focused on proving a point against us, in light of what happened last Sunday,” said forwards coach Micky Ward. “They’re proud people, they’ll be licking their wounds and they’ll come out fighting. They beat us two years ago over in Sochi, and it just shows we can’t take them lightly.

“They’re a big bunch of lads who run hard. If we can deal with that, put them in the right areas, make them play out, get our defence right and be clinical when we have the ball, then hopefully it should be a good day. But we expect them to throw everything at us.”

Last weekend’s victory exposed a large gulf in class between the two sides, but was achieved largely because Falcons treated the game with adequate respect. Ward will be demanding a similar approach tomorrow, not least because a win will complete a 100 per cent record in the pool stage and guarantee a home semi-final if Newcastle make it to the last four.

“We’d just beaten a top-of-the-league team in Exeter the week before (last weekend’s game), and as coaches you always hope your players are still on it, but you don’t really know until they go back out on the field,” said Ward.

“That was the biggest thing for us, knowing that the players were still mentally tuned in after having given them a few days off, and it’s great to know that this group have the mind-set to deal with that. It was really nice to see how they performed and we’re hoping for the same attitude again out in Georgia.”

Falcons have made just two changes to their side for tomorrow’s game, with Craig Willis replacing Joel Hodgson at fly-half and Jack Payne coming in for Scott Wilson at tight-head prop.

Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley, Kibirige, Penny, Flood, Radwan, Willis, M Young; Lockwood, Sowrey, Payne, Green, G Young, M Wilson, Uzokwe, Burrows.

Replacements: Blamire, Vickers, Davison, Socino, Chick, Stuart, Cowell, Hodgson.