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Falcons hand out two debuts
WINGER Zach Kibirige and prop Scott Wilson are handed debuts in Newcastle Falcons' British and Irish Cup match at home to Welsh club Cross Keys today.
Kibirige is a Yarm School product who has also played for Darlington, while 18-year-old Wilson is a Scottish age group hammer champion who decided only last summer to make the commitment to rugby.
Although born in Melrose, last year's Sedbergh School captain has an English mother and has played for England from Under 16s upwards.
Recent signing Warren Fury, who has played for Wales, is selected at scrum-half today for one of only three home Saturday games the Falcons are staging this season. One of the others is against Connaught, also in this competition, in January.
Newport complete a group which Newcastle are favourites to win and after starting the season with six victories they will be well fancied to win the cup.
Dean Richards takes the chance to look at other players today, with Alex Tait is at full back and Fijian international Waisea Luveniyali at fly-half.
After seeing their excellent start in National One hit the buffers through two successive defeats, Blaydon will be anxious to get back on track at Wharfedale.
With the teams locked together in mid-table, Blaydon coach Micky Ward will continue to defy a shoulder problem as his potential replacement, Andrew Foster, needs a knee operation.
Tommy Banks returns at centre and Ben Morris comes in at open side with Rob Bell dropping to the bench.
After five successive wins against the bottom five teams in National Two North, Darlington Mowden Park expect things to get a little tougher at Bromsgrove.
Given favourable conditions, third-placed Mowden will hope to give the Midlanders the runaround and they have centre Chris Peace and flanker Will McCauley back to boost their attacking flair.
Tom Hodgson and the versatile Danny Dixon drop to the bench, where they are joined by coach Danny Brown as reserve hooker Andy Tonkin is ill.
Dixon, converted from prop to No 8 last season, will also provide front row cover with Rory Duff switching from blind side to No 8 to accommodate McCauley.
Prop Dan Miller is on holiday, so Ben Simpson starts in the only other change, with ex-Westoe man, Lewis Johnson, retained on the wing.
Westoe have more than compensated for his loss by singing Samoan international Lome Fa'atau, who has played in two World Cups during a 35-cap career.
Now 36, Fa'atau is studying at Northumbria University and working as a physical trainer. He has agreed terms with Westoe, who are waiting for his registration to be approved, which is unlikely to be in time for today's trip to Birmingham and Solihull.
Charlie Rayner will make his first appearance of the season at full back as Westoe seek their first win.
Billingham have a chance of their fourth successive win in National Three North when they travel to struggling Birkenhead Park.
With player-coach Chris Hyndman facing a scan on a knee injury, Billingham make one change with David Reay coming in for unavailable hooker Anthony Amos.
West Hartlepool recall hooker Ian Pinchen and flanker Jonny Boatman for the visit of Kendal, with Andrew Dixon and Nathan Myers making way.
Greg Edwards returns on the wing in place of Colin Cheslin, who is injured.
Struggling Middlesbrough face another tough game in North One East at home to Morley. Neil Rees-Davies makes his first start at hooker in the absence of both Tom Symon and Richard Horton, while Robin Cessford replaces Olly Hodgson in the back row.
The Priorymen won their final seven games last season and have been strengthened by the arrivals of youngsters Jack Robinson and Ryan Mitchell, as well as Adrian Rose from Middlesbrough and John Morgan from Acklam.
Stockton skipper Mark Skirving returns in the second row and centres Marcus Sudron and Craig Slaughter are available. Paul Armstrong remains at scrum half in the absence of Rob Green.