Davies puts his trust in youth

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The Independent Online

Leeds coach Phil Davies is eagerly anticipating a meeting of rugby's young up-and-comers when his side take on Newcastle today.

Davies takes his team to Kingston Park on the back of a sensational victory over Saracens last week, but feels they will have to raise their performance level another notch if they are to record their first away win of what has been an encouraging campaign so far.

"We have 10 points from our first five games and we have to be delighted with that," said the former Welsh international. "It has been a steep learning curve for our younger players, but it should be an interesting battle because Newcastle have a great balance of youth and experience."

England international Tom Palmer is denied the chance to take on some of his fellow summer tourists because of injury, meaning brothers Chris and Phil Murphy link up in the Leeds second-row for the first time.

Graham Mackay is on the bench after completing his successful rugby league stint with a Grand Final triumph for the Bradford Bulls last weekend, while Dan Parks continues at fly-half. "We played well in the first half in our first away game at London Irish and in the second half at Bristol, so now we are looking for an 80-minute performance," said Davies.

Dave Walder steps into Jonny Wilkinson's fly-half role for Newcastle after being released from England duty, while Hugh Vyvyan replaces Doddie Weir at lock. Scotland squad man Andrew Mower is fit to take his place in the back-row after suffering ligament damage in the opening-day victory over Leicester.

Bristol's coach, Dean Ryan, has prop Paul Johnstone and centre Felipe Contepomi available after injury for the visit of struggling Wasps, while crowd favourite Luke Nabaro is back on the bench after knee surgery.

Henry Paul is not expected to make his union bow today for Gloucester, who play London Irish, although he should make the squad for the Parker Pen Shield clash with Caerphilly at Kingsholm next weekend. Diego Albanese is suspended, the ban being imposed voluntarily by Gloucester after their player was dismissed for a head-butt against Harlequins last week.

The Exiles are again without Kieron Dawson, required for Irish bench duties against England, while lock Jeff Fahrensohn will pack down for Germany in their World Cup qualifier against Sweden in Malmö. Coach Brendan Venter has drafted in Steve Williams as Fahrensohn's replacement, and has also switched his entire front-row.

Meanwhile, the Australian coach Eddie Jones, whose verbal sorties were a constant thorn in the Lions' side during the summer series, has started the mind games with England some three weeks before the Twickenham meeting. Pledging Australia to an open game, he called upon England to adopt similar tactics.

"I think the game needs that," he said, blithely ignoring England's record points- scoring spree in their curtailed Six Nations campaign last season and the Wallabies' recent record of putting the emphasis on miserly defence rather than free-flowing rugby. Jones tried to stoke the fires for the game further by adding: "There'll be a certain amount of feeling in it. Obviously their Lions players were disappointed by the Lions result and will be looking to turn that around."

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