Team news: Orlando leads side against Bedford

The Kingston Park clash is a 7.45pm kick-off and sees Argentina centre Orlando skippering a side which sees the return of flying winger Adam Radwan.

Newcastle will be looking to build on a positive start to the competition which saw them opening up with a bonus-point win last weekend at Ampthill – Iwan Stephens keeping his place on the wing after scoring two tries in his side's 40-17 triumph.

Josh Thomas and Josh Barton form the half-back partnership after coming on from the bench last weekend, while full-back Louis Brown makes his Falcons debut after shining last season for Coventry.

Flanker Ollie Leatherbarrow is the only other debutant in the starting XV following his summer move from Exeter Chiefs, the two-time BUCS Super Rugby winner joined in the back-row by John Kelly, who came on from the bench at Ampthill.

Eighteen-year-old full-back/centre Ben Redshaw is in line for his senior bow after being named among the replacements, with the academy product having spent last week training with England's Rugby World Cup squad out in France.

Club-mate Ben Stevenson misses Friday's game as he too spends a week in the England camp, with hooker Michael van Vuuren poised to make his first appearance for the Falcons after arriving from South African side, the Lions.

Head coach Alex Codling will be taking charge of his first competitive home game, saying: "I've come to Kingston Park many times as an opposing coach but it's a big moment on a personal level to be here as head coach at Newcastle Falcons.

"Being in that home dressing room and watching the boys run out will be really special for me, just as it will for the players."

Looking to build on last week's winning start to the Premiership Rugby Cup, he said: "We were delighted with the win and the five points last weekend but there's still lots to work on.

"The second half was more reflective of how we want to play than the first, and we'll be looking to take it on another level on Friday against Bedford.

"We're taking the competition very seriously and we've been clear on that throughout the summer, but at the same time it' an opportunity to rotate our squad and have a look at a variety of players and combinations.

"We will build connections and cohesion over the course of the five games leading into the Gallagher Premiership opener at Bath, and this is a really useful tournament for us."

Choosing Orlando to lead out the side, the Falcons boss explained: "Our club captain Callum Chick is really close to making his comeback after working incredibly hard to recover from shoulder surgery, and in his absence this week Matias Orlando will come in to lead the side.

"Matias epitomises everything that's good about this club in terms of his values and his work ethic, and I'm delighted to have him in our environment. He will lead from the front, he commands the respect of the entire squad and he's been great for us during the build-up."

Insisting the North East public will be rewarded if they come out and support the fixture, Codling added: "I would expect Friday to be a really entertaining game because Bedford are a team who really like to play.

"They bring pace and width and love an open game, and the supporters who come along to watch should in for a good evening. We know what a great atmosphere it brings and how much it helps the boys, so I would encourage as many people as possible to come along and see what we're about this season."

Supporters are reminded that Friday's game IS included in the 2023-24 season ticket package.

Non-season ticket holders can enjoy the action for just £15 for adults and £7 for under-18s in all areas of the stadium by clicking here.

Newcastle Falcons team v Bedford Blues (Friday, 7.45pm, Kingston Park Stadium)

15 Louis Brown, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Zach Kerr, 12 Matias Orlando (captain), 11 Iwan Stephens, 10 Josh Thomas, 9 Josh Barton; 1 Phil Brantingham, 2 Ollie Fletcher, 3 Richard Palframan, 4 Tim Cardall, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Ollie Leatherbarrow, 7 Marcus Tiffen, 8 John Kelly.

Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Freddie Lockwood, 20 Guy Pepper, 21 Ben Douglas, 22 Louie Johnson, 23 Ben Redshaw.

Bedford Blues: 15 Matt Worley, 14 Seán French, 13 Ethan Grayson, 12 Jordan Venter, 11 Pat Tapley, 10 Louis Grimoldby, 9 James Lennon; 1 Jamie Jack, 2 Jacob Fields, 3 Bryan O'Connor, 4 Robin Williams, 5 Alex Woolford, 6 Luke Frost, 7 Kieran Curran, 8 Joe Howard

Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Joey Conway, 18 Oisin Heffernan, 19 Geordie Irvine, 20 George Patten, 21 Jac Arthur, 22 Matt Arden, 23 Michael Le Bourgeois.

Referee: George Selwood.