Preview: Gloucester v Newcastle

Date published: April 24 2015

Gloucester return to Premiership action against the Newcastle Falcons on Saturday at Kingsholm and make several changes to the side that defeated Exeter Chiefs at home last weekend.

The Cherry and Whites find themselves in the middle of a series of testing encounters and, following the bruising encounter against the Chiefs under the Kingsholm floodlights last Saturday, make full use of their matchday squad for the visit of the Falcons.

The matchday 23 is very much the same as the one on duty last weekend, but several of last weekend's replacements come into the starting line up.

There are three changes in the backs. Irish centre Brendan Macken gets a run out alongside Billy Twelvetrees in the Gloucester midfield and there is a new-half back pairing in Billy Burns and Dan Robson.

Up front, Yann Thomas, Darren Dawidiuk and Sila Puafisi will make up the front row and Elliott Stooke and Ross Moriarty will start in the second row and back row respectively.

Previewing the game with the local media this week, Director of Rugby David Humphreys stressed that, although the Edinburgh game is on the horizon, this week is all about Newcastle.

"Everyone is aware that there's a big Cup Final next weekend, but the focus this week has very much been on preparing for Newcastle. We had Monday off to get over the bumps and bruises from Exeter but came in mentally fresh on Tuesday.

"We're excited about the opportunity to get back to Kingsholm in front of another big crowd, and hopefully build on last week's performance which is the best way to prepare us for a European final against Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, Newcastle make four changes from that which faced Bath at Kingston Park two weeks ago and will travel to Kingsholm looking for a repeat of their victory in Round 8 this weekend.

Only one change comes in the backs, with Alex Tait coming in on the wing as Chris Harris moves to outside centre in place of Adam Powell.

In the pack, Italian international Josh Furno takes the place of Calum Green in the second row, to partner Samoan international Kane Thompson while in the back row, Will Welch and Ally Hogg make welcome returns to the starting fifteen following injury enforced absences.

Their inclusion at numbers seven and eight respectively see a further positional switch as Mark Wilson moves from the openside flank to the blindside.

Form: Gloucester Rugby are without a win in Aviva Premiership Rugby for four games – since beating London Welsh in February – but it has been a different story in Europe. Eight straight wins, most recently 30-19 over Exeter Chiefs, have taken to the European Rugby Challenge Cup final, where they will meet Edinburgh next month.

But, in the meantime, attention switches back to the league and the Falcons – a side that beat Gloucester the last time they met, 20-10 at Kingston Park in November. Newcastle have only achieved one season double over the Cherry & Whites since 1997 – during the 2011/12 season – and Purdy is eager to ensure that doesn't happen again.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Charlie Sharples, 14 Jonny May, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 John Afoa, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 James Hook, 23 Bill Meakes

Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Ruki Tipuna, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Josh Furno, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers 
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Eric Fry, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Will Witty, 20 Sean Robinson, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Andy Tuilagi, 23 Adam Powell 

Date: Saturday, April 25
Venue: Kingsholm
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Andy Watson, Wayne Falla
TMO: Keith Lewis