Bedford Blues v Newcastle: team news

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Bedford Blues are looking forward to a top of the table clash when Newcastle Falcons visit Goldington Road this weekend.

It’s fair to say that Newcastle have certainly settled into life in the Championship with a perfect seven from seven record and are firm favourites to bounce straight back into the Premiership.

The Blues are under no illusion about the task ahead and know that inflicting a first defeat of the season on Dean Richards’ men would be the perfect tonic to their disappointing result at the Memorial Ground last weekend.

Ollie Dodge is ruled out of the game following an injury that he picked up against Bristol. Initial fears were that the winger had broken his leg, but X-rays revealed that he had not suffered any fracture but is ruled out for several weeks with ligament damage. Chris Locke is close to a return following his knee injury, Ben Gulliver should be back in action soon having recovered from an arm injury, but the game has come a little too soon from James Stephenson who misses out with a toe injury.

Speaking ahead of the game Blues Team Manager Rob Crowle said: “It’s always a pleasure to welcome the team who were relegated from the Premiership the previous season but we also know how big a test it will be.

“We’ve had some cracking games here against relegated sides such as Northampton, Bristol, Leeds and Worcester and I expect Saturday to be just as exciting.

“Newcastle have set their sights firmly on an immediate return to the Premiership and Dean Richards has them playing with plenty of drive and flair which has seen them win all seven games in the league and two in the cup.

“That said, the lads don’t need much encouragement for this weekend. We put last Sunday to bed early in the week and focused in on Newcastle pretty sharply. There were a lot of positives to take forward and lessons learned. We now have to take that learning and transfer it to the field on Saturday.

“We know it’s going to be a tough game but we have fantastic fans and I’m sure that they will be acting as the 16th man for this one. If we play at our best, the fans get behind us and Newcastle don’t settle well – anything could happen.”

Bedford make only two changes to the team that was defeated by Bristol with Ben Ransom starting on the wing in place of Ollie Dodge and Don Barrell, who pulled out late last weekend with sickness, starting at number eight. Paul Tupai moves to second row with Alex Rae taking a place on the bench alongside Darren Fox and Ricky Reeves who returns from suspension.

Starting line-up:

15. James Pritchard (c)

14. Ben Ransom

13. Brendan Burke

12. Henry Staff

11. Josh Bassett

10. Jake Sharp

9. Luke Baldwin

1. Darren Fearn

2. Neil Cochrane

3. Phil Boulton

4. Paul Tupai

5. Mike Howard

6. Gregor Gillanders

7. Sacha Harding

8. Don Barrell

Replacements: 16. Scott Spurling, 17. Ricky Reeves, 18. Dan Seal, 19. Alex Rae, 20. Darren Fox, 21. Ali Price, 22. Mark Atkinson.