- Bedford and Newcastle confirm final line-ups
- RFU Championship Dream XV winger Bassett ruled out
Photo: Michael Paler
Bedford Blues and Newcastle Falcons have announced their 22 man squads to go head-to-head in the first leg of the RFU Championship final tomorrow night at Goldington Road, KO 7.45pm.
Thursday night will be the fourth encounter between the two teams this season with the visitors holding a 3-0 record having won twice already at Goldington Road – once in the league 20-29 and once in the British & Irish Cup 15-18 – and once at Kingston Park where a freak try helped the Falcons to a 17-15 win.
Looking ahead to the first leg of the final, Blues forwards coach Martin Hynes said: “We’ve had a fine season and the lads are all looking forward to two more games against Newcastle. We’ve already had three extremely close encounters and I don’t think that there will be much in it again over these two legs.
“Newcastle have been on top of the league for the majority of the season and they are the benchmark that every other team has been striving to replicate. A few teams, including us, have come close, a couple have succeeded, but these two games will be very different because of what is on offer.”
“We do have the added benefit of being at home and I am delighted that our fans have one more opportunity to make a big difference on a game. The fans have been absolutely brilliant all season and we want to make sure that we give them a performance to be proud of.”
Director of Rugby Mike Rayer has the benefit of picking from an almost fully fit squad with the only absentee being winger Josh Bassett, who is ruled out with an infection. James Stephenson comes in to replace Bassett but apart from that the team remains the same as the one that started the semi-final second leg at Nottingham.
The guys are looking very good - Richards
In the opposition camp, Newcastle Falcons Director of Rugby Dean Richards has made two changes to the side that defeated Leeds Carnegie in the RFU Championship semi-finals.
Noah Cato replaces Tom Catterick on the wing, while at hooker Rob Vickers comes in for Matt Thompson who has a virus.
Falcons boss Richards is expecting another close encounter this time round, telling Falcons TV: “They [Bedford] are a very good side and they have quality throughout and they like to play with a lot of width, so it will be a good test for the boys.
“The lads looked sharp in training today, and despite a couple of bumps and bruises in the camp, the guys are looking very good.
“The beauty about the game being over two legs is that whatever happens down there, the second leg is equally as important.
Bedford Blues vs Newcastle Falcons, Thursday May 23, Goldington Road, KO 7.45pm
Ben Ransom, James Stephenson, Brendan Burke, Mark Atkinson, James Short, Myles Dorrian, Luke Baldwin, Ricky Reeves, Neil Cochrane, Phil Boulton, Mike Howard, Paul Tupai, Gregor Gillanders, Darren Fox (c), Nick Fenton-Wells
Replacements: 16. Scott Spurling, 17. Dan Seal, 18. Ben Gulliver, 19. Don Barrell, 20. Darryl Veenendaal, 21. Jake Sharp 22. Ollie Dodge
Alex Tait, Noah Cato, Suka Hufanga, Adam Powell, Ryan Shortland, Jimmy Gopperth, Warren Fury, Grant Shiells, Rob Vickers, Oliver Tomaszczyk, Carlo del Fava, Scott MacLeod, Mark Wilson, Will Welch (c), Ally Hogg
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Jonny Golding, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 James Hudson, 20 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 21 Rory Lawson, 22 Waisea Luveniyali