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Premiership: Bristol Bears v Newcastle Falcons


Newcastle's new Argentina centre Matias Orlando was part of the Pumas side who beat New Zealand in the Tri-Nations in Sydney in November
Newcastle’s new Argentina centre Matias Orlando was part of the Pumas side who beat New Zealand in the Tri-Nations in Sydney in November
Venue: Ashton Gate Date: Friday, 1 January Kick-off: 15:00 GMT Coverage: Updates on BBC local radio and live scores on the BBC Sport website

Bristol have had to pick a new-look front row of Peter McCabe, George Kloska and Jake Armstrong following a midweek positive Covid test.

But Charles Piutau is fit to return at full-back as one of seven changes for the meeting of third against second-placed Newcastle at Ashton Gate.

Newcastle give a debut to Argentina centre Matias Orlando.

South African Philip van der Walt also makes his Premiership bow in their first league game since 5 December.

The Boxing Day home fixture against Leicester was called off because of positive tests in the Tigers camp.

The Falcons were awarded a four-point victory, to maintain the promoted 2019-20 Championship winners’ unbeaten start to the season.

Having previously started with three on-field wins, Dean Richards’ side are second only to Exeter, although already four points adrift as the reigning Premiership champions have made a faultless start, opening with four straight bonus-point wins.

But they are only a point ahead of Bristol, who have picked up three bonus points on top of their three wins.

Bristol’s midweek Covid test was the first positive result the club have had since testing began in July but they have had to stand down Dan Thomas, Will Capon and John Afoa, the front row who started the Boxing Day win at Harlequins.

The three who replaced them at The Stoop, Bryan Byrne, Max Lahiff and Jake Woolmore, are all missing too. But they do at least have England and Lions prop Kyle Sinckler freed from Covid protocol to be named on the replacements bench, along with fit-again Luke Morahan.

Bristol: Piutau; Naulago, Radradra, O’Conor, Lloyd; Sheedy, Uren; McCabe, Kloska, Armstrong, Attwood, Joyce, Luatua (capt), Heenan, Hughes.

Replacements: Thompson, Turner, Sinckler, Hawkins, Harding, Randall, Leiua, Morahan.

Newcastle: Arscott; Radwan, Wacokecoke, Orlando, Stevenson; Flood, Stuart; Davison, Blamire, Mulipola, Peterson, Fuser, Robinson, Wilson (capt), van der Walt.

Replacements: Maddison, Cooper, Tampin, Collett, Basham, Schreuder, Connon, Owen.

Referee: Christophe Ridley.

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