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Richards goes head to head with Robinson
NEWCASTLE boss Dean Richards is determined to outsmart his former England back row colleague Andy Robinson when the Falcons make a rare Saturday home appearance today.
While Richards wants his side to complete their 22-match Championship programme with a 100 per cent record, he would also like to prevent Robinson's Bristol team qualifying for the play-offs.
Since the former England and Scotland coach arrived at the Memorial Stadium several new signings have been made in a bid to get Bristol back into the Premiership, having missed out through the play-offs last season.
Richards said: "We saw Bristol as genuine title contenders when we played them on the first weekend of the season. We still maintain that, and our intention is to knock them out of the play-offs. If they beat us we will probably be playing them in two weeks in the semi-finals."
The Falcons announced this week that the majority of their home games next season will kick off at 3pm on a Sunday, but for their only Saturday league game this season Richards anticipates a high-octane encounter and is giving a rare outing to powerhouse centre James Fitzpatrick, who has been on loan at Blaydon.
He will play alongside recent signing Adam Powell, with Jimmy Gopperth at fly-half after recovering from a hamstring injury.
In the pack Jonny Golding replaces Grant Shiells at loose-head prop, and Mark Wilson returns to the back row in place of Ollie Stedman.
Newcastle came away from Bristol with a 37-20 victory on the opening day, when Gopperth kicked five penalties and a conversion.
The New Zealander's departure for Leinster at the end of the season will leave Clegg to compete with Joel Hodgson for the No 10 shirt, but Gopperth is determined to complete the task of getting the Falcons back into the Premiership.
"Bristol are coming up here needing to win so it is going to be a good challenge for us," he said. "We have just got to make sure that we are on our game and look after the ball. One of our goals at the start of the year was to not just get promoted, but to win every game along the way."
Blaydon coach Micky Ward has a fully-fit squad, other than long-term absentee Frazer Wilson, and wants everybody to play in two of the three remaining games.
They go to Rosslyn Park today then finish their National One programme at home to Macclesfield next week before entertaining Darlington Mowden Park in the Durham Cup final on April 30.
Among those not in today's starting line-up are flanker Ben Morris, props Trevor Davison and James Hallam, and fly half Jamie Guy, who all played for the Falcons A team in a 24-17 win against Cumbria at Carlisle on Monday.
Morris and Hallam are on the first team bench, while Davison and Guy could feature in the Durham Second Teams Cup final at home to Mowden.
The Falcons A team was captained by Ireland Under 20s hooker George McGuigan, who played at Mowden before switching to Tynedale.
He is likely to be on the bench for the clash of the Dalesmen at Corbridge today, in which Wharfedale will be desperate for victory in their battle against relegation.
Mowden visit Hull Ionians and include England Under 18 winger Sean Brown, who raced half the length of the field to score for the Falcons A team on Monday.
Andrew Tonkin returns at hooker, with Charlie Maddison reverting to the back row, although he might still throw in at the line-out.
Former Sheffield player Callum McKenzie is handed his first start in the back row, while Chris Peace returns at centre.
Ionians can still claim the automatic promotion slot ahead of Stourbridge, who visit Westoe, for whom defeat would virtually seal relegation.
Middlesbrough hand England Counties Under 18 player Ollie Hodgson his debut in the back row in their final game in North One East at Pocklington, while Darlington complete their programme at home to Northern.
Stockton host Gosforth in their last home league game. They are hoping experienced front row forwards Dan Muirhead and Mark Conway plus flanker Wayne Brown will be fit after missing the last two games.