Newcastle form pleases Welch
Newcastle captain Will Welch has no fears as his side take on Aviva Premiership leaders Northampton on Friday evening.
The Falcons are off the bottom of the table only thanks to the hopeless form of London Welsh, cast adrift with only one point from 11 games, and it would be a major upset were they to beat the table-topping Saints to move up to 10th place.
But after a narrow 25-23 defeat to third-placed Saracens last Saturday, Welch told the Northern Echo: "We are in a pretty good place at the moment.
"To push a quality team like Sarries so close was a good marker of where we are, and had we kept our discipline at times and got ourselves in the right areas we could have come away with the win.
"It is testament to all the boys and how we are playing at the moment that we could run them as close, and hopefully we can build on that performance."
Chris Harris scored two tries in that Saracens game and steps up from the bench to make a first Premiership start on the wing. Andy Tuilagi will also make his first Falcons start in a team showing seven changes.
Northampton make just one alteration, Phil Dowson replacing Tom Wood as openside flanker and captain.
Centre Tom Stephenson is not taking the game lightly and said: "The days of seeing Newcastle as an 'easy' game are gone. They're a team that are on the up.
"They gave Saracens a good run for their money last weekend and we know that they've got big ball carriers on the wing and in the centre and will be a big challenge for us.
"They've got a good coaching team and recruited well over the summer. Going up to Newcastle is always hard, but they've improved on the road as well this season and are playing some good rugby."