Andrew: We’ll cause anyone problems

Newcastle boss Rob Andrew insists his players can "compete with anybody" despite Falcons' poor start to the Guinness Premiership campaign. [more]

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Newcastle boss Rob Andrew insists his players can "compete with anybody" despite Falcons’ poor start to the Guinness Premiership campaign.

Newcastle could find themselves bottom of the league if they lose at Northampton and other results work against them.

Despite Andrew’s optimism, the stark facts are that Falcons have won just three out of 12 Premiership games in 2005, while their last away victory came against Leeds two days after Christmas.

To compound matters, Jonny Wilkinson has been joined on the casualty list by players like Ian Peel, Phil Dowson and Matt Thompson as Newcastle look to bounce back this weekend following a demoralising home defeat at newly-promoted Bristol’s hands.

"I’ve been confident all pre-season that we can compete with anybody, and I still firmly believe it," said rugby director Andrew.

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"Northampton lost a lot of games at home last season, so there will be a bit of tension there for the fans and the players.

"If we can achieve the level of performance we did at Sale (Newcastle lost 26-25), we believe we can cause them problems."

Wilkinson’s continuing recovery from an appendix operation has dashed hopes of an intriguing battle opposite Saints’ All Blacks star Carlos Spencer, and Newcastle could have their work cut out, especially if Spencer produces a commanding performance on his home debut.

Bath, meanwhile, are in a worse state than Newcastle, having collected just one losing bonus point from two games, but rugby director John Connolly is refusing to reach for the panic button ahead of the testing mission at Leicester.

"The worst thing you can do is let a couple of defeats get you down," he said. "If you do that, you will lose confidence.

"This side has a lot of confidence in its own ability, and the boys are looking forward to taking on the Tigers."

Leicester though, will have a pretty formidable welcome party in place to greet them, with prop Julian White making his first start of the season.

"I am feeling good," said White. "Training has been good, but like everyone else, I am itching to get out there and play."

Worcester and Saracens, who boast arguably the Premiership’s two form scrummaging packs, go head-to-head at Sixways, while White’s British & Irish Lions colleague Matt Dawson is also back, lining up for Wasps against Leeds on Sunday.

Dawson’s contest with Justin Marshall could be worth the Headingley entrance fee alone, and Tykes rugby director Phil Davies has made several changes following two defeats, including moving Italian international Roland De Marigny to fly-half, giving England Under-19 captain Jordan Crane a league debut and handing full-back Iain Balshaw the captaincy.

"We are all obviously disappointed with the results from our first two games, but I have been encouraged by the players’ desire and commitment, both during games and in training," said Davies.

"We are looking to create a diverse game plan that can pose different problems for individual teams, both in the Premiership and Europe, and that will take time."

Premiership pace-setters Bristol, meanwhile, will be without injured forwards Mark Regan and Gareth Llewellyn against Gloucester at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday, but the visitors’ England centre Mike Tindall has recovered from a hip injury.

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