Ford fancies Falcons' chances
Newcastle will resume their fight for Aviva Premiership survival on Saturday, with defence coach Mike Ford claiming: "We are starting to show more steel and resilience."
The Falcons, nine points adrift of 11th-placed Wasps with nine games remaining, head to Bath after two encouraging LV= Cup displays against Sale Sharks and Leicester under their new coaching triumvirate of Gary Gold, John Wells and Ford.
Newcastle remain the bookmakers' overwhelming favourites to be relegated, but former England defence specialist Ford is far from despondent. He said: "The boys should take a lot of credit from the way that they have responded to the new coaching regime."
He added: "It can be difficult for players to adapt to change halfway through a season, and they have reacted well, which as a coach is very pleasing. We have brought one or two more ideas in, and as people saw against Sale and Leicester we are starting to show more steel and resilience in everything that we are doing.
"We are not there yet. It is still early days, and we have a tough task this weekend against Bath, but we have an excellent chance."
Leaders Harlequins, four points above second-placed Saracens, will pass the half-century points mark if they beat Twickenham Stoop visitors London Irish, while Northampton can keep in touch with the top two by defeating Kingsholm hosts Gloucester.
Leicester are level on points with Saints in fourth spot, but a tough assignment awaits them tomorrow evening against Exeter at Sandy Park. The Chiefs toppled Tigers 30-28 away from home last September, but Exeter boss Rob Baxter believes Leicester will provide testing opposition despite being without several players on RBS 6 Nations duty this weekend.
"They won't be selecting from the squad they want to be picking from, and they will have some very good players missing," Baxter said. "But whatever team comes down here, it will be pretty close to 15 internationals.
"Obviously, everybody can see it's a pretty close league right now. If Leicester can get some decent points this weekend that will help cement themselves in the top four - a position where they want to be. But if we can get some points, then we can start to challenge that top half, and that is a fantastic goal for us."
Sunday's Premiership action, meanwhile, sees Saracens, who will be minus their sizeable England Six Nations contingent, tackling Wasps at Adams Park.