PHARMACY student Simon Uzokwe is relishing the opportunity to combine his studies at Sunderland University with a blossoming rugby career – and is prescribing a ninth successive victory when Newcastle Falcons take on Bath in the Anglo-Welsh Cup tomorrow afternoon.

Uzokwe will make his third successive senior start as Falcons look to extend their 100 per cent record in this season’s Anglo-Welsh Cup at the Rec, before getting his head back into the books next week as he ploughs through the final year of his studies at Sunderland.

He spent part of his formative years with Darlington Mowden Park, and while he might be taking an unconventional route to the top, he is enjoying the challenge of pursuing two different paths.

“I got let go by Northampton Saints when I was 18,” said Uzokwe, who will form part of the Falcons back row this afternoon. “I took a gap year and played rugby for my local club and I applied to Sunderland University to do a pharmacy degree.

“While I was there, I signed for Darlington Mowden Park in National One. I had a good couple of years there and thankfully on the back of that I got picked up by Newcastle Falcons.

“I initially came up just to study and to play a bit of rugby on the weekend, but things have turned out for the better and I’m now combining my third year at Uni with a full-time rugby contract.

“Sunderland have been really good in allowing me to fit my studies around training, I pick and choose which bits I attend and that support has helped me massively. It’s hard work fitting everything in, but I got 90 per cent for an assignment last week, so thankfully my marks haven’t suffered.”

Having qualified for the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup last weekend, Falcons will be seeking to maintain their superb record in this season’s knock-out competitions, having already recorded Anglo-Welsh wins over Wasps and Cardiff Blues.

“Some people might be surprised at how well we’re doing in all competitions this season, but it’s no surprise to us because we see the hard work that’s going in every day,” said Uzokwe. “We all know the game plan, we’re good at what we do and it’s all about keeping up that momentum.

“As a club, we have done well over the past couple of months, that confidence filters down to all the boys who aren’t necessarily in the Premiership team and it’s a great opportunity for lads to put their hands up.

“If we know and take care of our own jobs then we won’t go far wrong, and also within that is the fact we have an awareness of what the opposition are going to do. We will absolutely respect Bath because they’re a good side, but if we execute what we are about then we’re in a good position to win the game.”

Having won their last eight games in all competitions, Falcons have made ten changes from the side that beat Russian champions Enisei-STM in Georgia last weekend.

Dominic Waldouck makes his first competitive appearance of the season in the centres, with Joel Hodgson and Sam Stuart forming the half-back partnership. Santiago Socino returns at hooker, with Scottish duo Glen Young and Andrew Davidson combining the second row.

Newcastle Falcons: Tait, Agulla, Waldouck, JP Socino, Radwan, Hodgson, Stuart; Lockwood, S Socino, Davison, Young, Davidson, Hogg, Uzokwe, Burrows.

Replacements: Sowrey, Brocklebank, Payne, Hunter-Hill, Chick, Dawson, Penny, Willis.