Bates backs new-look Falcons to find their feet
Draw specialists Newcastle should finally find the winning formula when they launch their Amlin Challenge Cup campaign against Italian hosts Petrarca on Saturday. Falcons boss Steve Bates is looking for his much-changed team to make their mark during the fortnight's break from domestic action. Prop Laurence Ovens and hooker Alex Walker make their full debuts among six switches in the pack following last Sunday's defeat against Guinness Premiership leaders Saracens, while Rob Miller will hope to call the shots from fly-half. Bates said: "Petrarca are up around the top three of the Italian league, and with a fly-half like Ludovic Mercier we know they have someone who will punish any penalties in our own half and who will direct them around the field." He added: "There is an awful lot for us to play for during this next fortnight in terms of taking our own game forward, and this group of players is really looking forward to taking on that challenge. "We know we need to make progress as a team, and this competition is an important part of that process."
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