Amlin Challenge Cup: Newcastle Falcons v Brive preview
Last Updated: 09/01/14 6:54pm
Will Welch: Returns to Newcastle's pack to take on Brive
Newcastle and Brive go toe-to-toe on Thursday night knowing the winner will have one foot in the knockout stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup.
The two clubs currently sit tied at the top of Pool 3 on 14 points going into the penultimate round of fixtures, with Brive having won the reverse fixture 23-16 on French soil last October.
However the Falcons know a home triumph in front of the Sky Sports cameras would see them seize control of the group, particularly as they have a home fixture against Bucharest to follow.
Director of rugby Dean Richards has made nine changes from the line-up that started the 16-8 reverse to Aviva Premiership rivals Sale Sharks last time out.
Skipper Will Welch replaces Andy Saull at openside flanker and he is joined in the back row of the scrum by Richard Mayhew.
Scott MacLeod gets a start at lock alongside Sean Tomes, but the front row trio of Rob Vickers, Scott Lawson and Kieran Brookes remain.
In the backs, Richards has selected young duo Zach Kibirige and Tom Catterick at winger and full-back respectively. James Fitzpatrick partners Adam Powell in the centres with Joel Hodgson at fly-half.
"It's going to be an extremely physical contest and they always are when you face French teams," said director of rugby Richards told the club's official website.
"There's a quarter-final place at stake tomorrow night, and when you reach this stage of the competition everyone is desperate to progress through to the knockout phases."
Visitors Brive currently languish down in 11th place in the Top 14 standings, though they recorded a 15-9 victory over Montpellier last time out.
The other fixture in Europe on the same night sees Stade Francais host Cavalieri Prato knowing a bonus-point win would push the Parisians on the cusp of a quarter-final berth.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Adam Powell, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Warren Fury; 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch (capt), 8 Ally Hogg
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 James Hallam, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Andy Saull, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Noah Cato
Brive:15 Anderson Neisen, 14 Alfi Mafi, 13 Baptiste Delage, 12 Thomas Laranjeira, 11 Sevanaia Galala, 10 Romain Sola, 9 Damien Neveu; 1 Damien Lavergne, 2 Louis Acosta, 3 Johannes Coetzee, 4 Simon Pinet, 5 Apisai Naikatini, 6 Said Hireche (capt), 7 Fabien Laurent, 8 Kieran Murphy
Replacements: 16 Francois Da Ros, 17 Goderzi Shvelidze, 18 Yusuf Tuncer, 19 Victor Lebas, 20 Hugues Briatte, 21 Thomas Sanchou, 22 Guillaume Namy, 23 Elia Radikedike
Watch Newcastle take on Brive live on Sky Sports 1HD at 7.45pm.