Preview: Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons

Date published: December 24 2015

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Logovi'i Mulipola, Mathew Tait and Opeti Fonua return from injury to line up for Leicester Tigers in Saturday's Premiership fixture against Newcastle Falcons.

Samoa international prop Mulipola joins Harry Thacker and Fraser Balmain in the Tigers front row, with Ed Slater joining Dom Barrow at lock. Tom Croft and Laurence Pearce return to the back row alongside Lachlan McCaffrey.

In the backline, scrum-half Jono Kitto comes in for his first start for the club, and Telusa Veainu switches to the wing with Tait at full-back.

Fonua is one of six internationals among the replacements as he returns for the first time since suffering a broken bone in his arm in the Round 3 win over Wasps.

Meanwhile, Newcastle Falcons have handed an Aviva Premiership debut to fly-half Craig Willis.

The 20-year-old half-back has been making steady progress throughout the season, having guided the club through their Kings of the North Campaign in that position and the two Challenge Cup fixtures against Connacht.

Willis is one of only four changes to the starting line-up from the last league game against Saracens, although a number of personnel have made positional changes ahead of the weekend's game.

Fresh from eye catching stints in the European competition, Simon Hammersley make a first Premiership start since November 1 at full-back, with Alex Tait moving across to the right wing position.

Belisario Agulla moves a position in field to take up the outside centre berth alongside Chris Harris, while leading Challenge Cup try scorer Marcus Watson continues on the left wing.

Partnering Willis in the half-backs, Michael Young will again provide service from scrum-half.

In the pack, Rob Vickers, George McGuigan and Jon Welsh will again pack down in the front row, following on from two committed showings in the last two league games.

Sean Robinson's impressive rise continues as he retains his post in the second row, alongside new partner Mark Wilson, who moves up from his usual berth on the back row.

The Cumbrian's move into the engine room sees Ally Hogg take to the blindside flank, while captain Will Welch and Nili Latu remain on the openside flank and at number eight respectively.

Form: Both sides come into the game in decent form, after Leicester twice turned over Munster, while the Falcons picked up a morale-boosting win at home to high-flying Connacht.

The teams:

Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Telusa Veainu , 13 Peter Betham , 12 Matt Smith, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jono Kitto, 8 Laurence Pearce, 7 Lachlan McCaffrey, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Ed Slater (c), 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Logovi'i Mulipola
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Opeti Fonua, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Seremaia Bai 

Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Belisario Agulla, 12 Chris Harris, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Craig Willis, 9 Michael Young, 8 Nili Latu, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Ally Hogg, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Mark Wilson, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Taione Vea, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Todd Clever, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Tom Catterick, 23 Juan Pablo Socino 

Date: Saturday, December 26
Venue: Welford Road
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant Referees: Darren Gamage, Kelvin Stewart
TMO: Rowan Kitt

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