Rugby - Richards aware of Bedford danger

Newcastle will aim to maintain a 100 per cent winning record against Bedford this season in Thursday night's Championship final first leg at Goldington Road.

PA Sport
Rugby - Richards aware of Bedford danger
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Dean Richards is aiming to guide Newcastle back into the Aviva Premiership

All three previous meetings - two league games and a British and Irish Cup success - went Newcastle's way, but Falcons boss Dean Richards is well aware of the Blues' pedigree.

"They are a very good side. They have quality throughout and they like to play with a lot of width, so it will be a good test for the boys," he said.

"The beauty about the game being over two legs is that whatever happens down there, the second leg is as equally important.

"We will play as well as we can and hopefully come away with the points and carry it on up here (at Newcastle), but if not then we have the chance to turn it around up here."

Richards has made two changes from the side that secured a semi-final success against Leeds Carnegie, with wing Noah Cato replacing Tom Catterick and hooker Rob Vickers taking over from Matt Thompson, who has a virus.

Newcastle's return to the Aviva Premiership will be secured if they prevail on aggregate after both legs, although Bedford could easily spoil the party.

"We've had a fine season, and the lads are all looking forward to two more games against Newcastle," Bedford forwards coach Martin Hynes said.

"We have already had three extremely close encounters, and I don't think that there will be much in it again over these two legs.

"Newcastle have been on top of the league for the majority of the season, and they are the benchmark that every other team has been striving to replicate. A few teams, including us, have come close, and a couple have succeeded, but these two games will be very different because of what is on offer."

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