DEAN RICHARDS is adamant his Newcastle Falcons will not have a “fear factor” when they travel to Bath tomorrow afternoon despite their position at the foot of the Gallagher Premiership table.

Having crashed out of the Premiership Rugby Cup at the semi-final stage last weekend, Falcons return to league duty with a daunting trip to the Rec, but Richards is confident some good recent memories of taking on Bath will work in his side’s favour.

Last season, Falcons ended a long losing run at the Rec with a 33-32 win, and Richards’ side also saw off Bath at Kingston Park in emphatic fashion in both the Premiership and Premiership Rugby Cup in November.

“Bath is a difficult place to play,” said Richards, whose side head into this weekend’s matches four points adrift of 11th-placed Worcester Warriors. “They won’t have lost anyone to internationals this weekend and their injury situation doesn’t appear to be very bad, so it will be a really hard but interesting game.

“We’ve been down there and won last season and we beat Bath at our place in November, so in that sense it doesn’t hold any fear for us. At the same time, we’re very respectful of the talent they have and the fact they will be very well coached by a top guy like Todd Blackadder – we’ve just to go there and produce a performance.

“We’re not going down there to concede, and we never have done. There are points to be had, so let’s see what we can come away with.”

Last weekend’s defeat to Northampton Saints exemplified Falcons’ Jekyll-and-Hyde character, with Richards’ side racing into a 21-point lead before they were eventually beaten 59-33.

“The first half-hour was very positive, but we fell off a cliff after that,” said the director of rugby. “It was not helped by the fact we picked up four calf injuries, which was a bit strange.

“That certainly didn’t help, but at the same time we’ve played some good rugby in our last few games – we just need to string it together for 80 minutes.

“The boys take such pride in their performance that it really hurts them when they lose, as it should do. There was a bit of soul-searching among the squad and coaches on Monday morning when we were going through our debrief, but it was all channelled positively in terms of looking for the reasons why we lost the game and how we can put it right this weekend.

“Monday was a difficult day just trying understand why we fell off that cliff after half-an-hour. We gave a lot of guys their first game for a while, which told in terms of fitness later on, and because we picked up so many injuries, we were using our subs earlier than intended and for the wrong reasons.

“We tried to drip feed people back in and it didn’t quite work how we wanted, but we’ve had a positive week and the guys have picked up for Bath. The next block of games is really important to us, we’ll take what we can from each of them and that’s the way we’ll approach it.”

Gary Graham returns to tomorrow’s starting line a fortnight after making his international debut for Scotland. The flanker forms part of a side showing ten changes from last weekend, with the front row boosted by the return of loose-head Sam Lockwood.

Hooker Kyle Cooper and tight-head Logovi’i Mulipola complete a freshened-up front three, and Newcastle’s backline shows a host of changes with Zach Kibirige the only starter retained from last weekend.

Injuries rule out Josh Matavesi (calf), Vereniki Goneva (calf) and Alex Dunbar (groin), so Simon Hammersley comes back into the side at full-back and Sinoti Sinoti steps up to the left wing outside a centre pairing of Chris Harris and Pedro Bettencourt. Toby Flood and Michael Young return to form an experienced pairing at half-back.