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Hodgson gets a chance to impress for Falcons
NEWCASTLE Falcons have given 20-year-old fly half Joel Hodgson another chance to impress in tomorrow's return British and Irish Cup clash with Newport at Kingston Park.
The Newcastle RGS product showed off his skills in last week's 26-10 win away to the Welsh club, when first-choice fly half Jimmy Gopperth scored two tries from full back.
While keen to add to Hodgson's experience, the unbeaten Falcons will also have half an eye on next Sunday's Championship match at home to London Scottish and have bolstered the pack by recalling skipper Ally Hogg and ex-captain James Hudson.
Hooker Rob Vickers also returns with head coach Peter Russell saying:
"I think it will be a real battle up front, and the weather forecast is for wet and windy conditions.
"Newport put up a dogged fight in the second-half last week. We went into the changing room at half-time buoyant, but we just couldn't kick on, which was disappointing.
"We've got to look ahead a bit in terms of the London Scottish game.
It's all about the play-offs at the end of the season, but we can't look too far ahead."
Blaydon are confident the big game in National One will go ahead today when they entertain Rosslyn Park, with whom they share second place, four points behind leaders Ealing.
Full back Nathan Bailey returns after injury in place of Gavin Painter in an otherwise unchanged team. Winger Frazer Wilson is expected to be out for some time with the knee injury he suffered playing for Durham Under 20s.
There will also be a battle for second place in National Two North with Darlington Mowden Park hoping to overhaul their visitors, Hull Ionians.
Will McCauley returns at blind side with Rory Duff switching to No 8 in place of Danny Dixon, who will be on the bench as he is also needed to cover the absence of prop Ben Simpson.
Lewis Johnson returns on the wing for Sean Brown and last week's hat-trick hero Jack Neville continues at scrum half. He will be returning to Cardiff University after Christmas, but Mowden hope to have Zylon McGaffin back by then. Westoe, who entertain Mowden next week, visit unbeaten leaders Stourbridge.
West Hartlepool entertain National Three North leaders Chester, who cited two of their players after the teams met in September.
The more serious allegation was levelled at hooker Andrew Rollins, whose appeal against a 13-week ban failed, ruling him out until February 28.
He was the only West man anywhere near a Chester player who suffered an eye injury in a maul, but West felt the video showed he would have needed arms 6ft long to have reached the player in question.
Andrew Dixon replaces Rollins and Andrew Foreman returns at outside centre. After impressing on his debut last week, 17-year-old Sam Miller will again be on the bench.
West's plight in next to bottom place is underlined by the recent improvement of fellow stugglers Birkenhead Park and Bradford and Bingley.
The latter pulled off a shock win at Percy Park last week and now entertain Billingham, who beat them 48-15 early in the season.
Since then the Bees have recruited ex-Rugby League star Henry Paul, who will play alongside former West Hartlepool centre Phil Greaves.
Billingham bring in Will Turnbull for unavailable winger Eldon Myers, while Paul Dalton returns on the bench.
After their disappointing defeat by Darlington, Middlesbrough have bolstered the pack for the visit of Northern by bringing in ex-skipper Iain Bradford for his first senior start of the season at No 8. Skipper Richie Barker switches to blind side and Lee Theakston returns to the second row.
Phil Harland moves up to prop as Chris Horton is unavailable, and Craig Chapman provides cover on the bench following his suspension. Rob Bellerby returns at centre and Jack Bircham at full back.
Key man Richard Snowball is unavailable for Darlington's trip to Keighley, so Tom Wilkinson comes in at No 8 with Joe Hargreaves in the second row. Owen Waldin, back from university, is at fly half with Mark Baldwin at full back. David Mackfall switches to centre to accommodate Tony Taylor on the wing.
Stockton expect to have fly half Jeremy Good and No 8 Martin Dixon back, but scrum half Rob Green's knee injury is likely to rule him out until next season at the earliest.
Paul Armstrong continues in the No 9 shirt .
*Mowden Park will include an interesting trio of overseas triallists in their second team at West Hartlepool today.
The Croatia captain, Tonci Buzov, will play in the back row, Hungary international Tamas Szabo is at prop, and 19-year-old Blair Rush will be in the second row. He is the son of former All Blacks winger Eric Rush.
*An RFU disciplinary hearing will be held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Durham on Tuesday, to consider the cases of three North-East players.
Newcastle prop James Hall, already suspended by the club, has been cited for striking in the game against Plymouth Albion on November 30, Tynedale's Graeme Dunn was sent off for a tip tackle against Esher last week, and Westoe flanker Haydn Richards was dismissed for punching against Otley.