Preview: Gloucester v Newcastle

Date published: February 26 2016

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Gloucester have made seven changes to their starting line up for Saturday's Premiership clash with Newcastle Falcons at Kingsholm.

Winger Henry Purdy is one of the new faces as he returns from injury. Purdy returns on the left wing in place of Steve McColl in one of four changes to the back-line as the Cherry and Whites look to bounce back after last week's loss at Saracens.

Also returning to the starting line up are Rob Cook, Willi Heinz and Bill Meakes, with skipper Billy Twelvetrees moving back to his usual inside centre berth.

There are three changes to the pack. Paddy McAllister replaces Nick Wood at loosehead prop. Wood misses out having left the field injured at Allianz Park.

And there's a new look back row. Ben Morgan is still carrying a knock while Matt Kvesic has been away training with England, so Ross Moriarty will team up with Jacob Rowan and Lewis Ludlow. Kvesic is named amongst the replacements.

The defeat at Saracens followed three excellent performances and Gloucester's director of rugby David Humphreys is looking for a reaction from his side this weekend.

"We were obviously very pleased with the previous three weeks when we performed well," he said.

"We didn't quite get the result we wanted against Leicester but played very well and were very positive against Bath and Harlequins.

"We all admit that last week was very disappointing, that we didn't perform against the champions. So, the message has been very clear, there wasn't a huge amount wrong, but what was wrong has to be fixed. And that frustration and anger from last week has to be reflected in the performance this weekend."

After a difficult start to the season, Newcastle have turned a corner in recent weeks and Humphreys is expecting a real challenge.

"Anybody who has watched them will be pretty impressed with their style of rugby, the way they're trying to play, the ambition they're showing," he added.

"They've a good team and, in Dean and John Wells, they're well coached.

"So, it's going to be a test for us but our focus every week has been about us and making sure we're well prepared. Newcastle will pose something different to Saracens last weekend but we're ready for it."

Meanwhile, Newcastle welcome back a pair of internationals to their starting XV for this clash.

Italy winger Giamba Venditti and Tonga scrum-half Sonatane Takulua return to the run-on side in place of Alex Tait and Michael Young, while in the forwards, a further pair of changes sees Calum Green and Richard Mayhew take up positions in the second and back rows.

In a positional switch from last weekend, Mark Wilson moves from the blindside flank back into the second row, in place of the absent Sean Robinson, who sits out this weekend’s fixture in a precautionary measure after leaving the field with a strain against Saints.

Remaining in situ from the 26-25 win, Simon Hammersley will again occupy the fullback position, while, Marcus Watson retains the number 11 after a lively performance last Sunday to complete the Falcons back three.

The all English centre pairing of Adam Powell and Chris Harris will make their fifth starts of the campaign as a combination and will be keen to repeat the performance they delivered against Jim Mallender’s side.

The pair were among a number of players to shine for the Falcons last weekend by effectively contained and limited the influence of centre Luther Burrell, who went on to receive an England call up after the game.

Kingston Park’s latest cult hero Andy Goode retains the fly-half shirt for the weekend’s encounter for his fourth start for the club.

Up front, Scott Lawson returns to his old stomping ground as the Falcons starting hooker and will pack down with Rob Vickers, who continues to holms in on his 200th appearance for the club and Taione Vea, who continues to display his international credentials on the tight head side.

Behind the new second row combination of Green and Wilson, Will Welch and Ally Hogg join Mayhew on the back row and retain their openside flank and number eight positions from six days ago.

On the replacements bench, George McGuigan, Alex Rogers and Kensuke Hatakeyama remain as the Falcons front row options, with Mouritz Botha and Todd Clever covering the second and back rows.

It will be Clever’s first involvement since returning from USA Eagles duty in the Americas Rugby Championship, where he lead by example with his captaincy and try scoring efforts placing the team at the top of the standings heading into the final rounds.

Having been named as this weekend’s starting nine, Takulua swaps jerseys with Michael Young who take to the bench as the replacement scrum half, while Craig Willis and Juan Pablo Socino complete the matchday 23.

Form: Gloucester have won just two of their last five Premiership matches, against Bath and Harlequins in Rounds 11 and 12. Gloucester’s only defeat at Kingsholm in any tournament since October was 19-18 by Leicester on 30 January. Newcastle Falcons have lost only one of their last five matches in all tournaments and that by a single point to Wasps at the Ricoh Arena in the Premiership on 6 February. The Tynesiders have not won away from home in any competition since they visited London Irish in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 7 February 2015. Gloucester’s only defeat in their last five Premiership fixtures against the Falcons was 10-20 at Kingston Park in November 2014. Newcastle have won just once at Kingsholm since 1998: 29-20 in the Premiership  in April 2012.

The teams:

Gloucester : 15 Rob Cook; 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Bill Meakes, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Henry Purdy, 10 James Hook, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Lewis Ludlow, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Henry Trinder

Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Giamba Venditti, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Richard Mayhew, 5 Mark Wilson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Taione Vea, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers 
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Todd Clever, 21 Michael Young, 22 Craig Willis, 23 Juan Pablo Socino

Date: Saturday 27 February
Venue:  Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant Referees: Roger Baileff, Paul Burton
TMO: Rowan Kitt

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