Preview: Leicester v Newcastle

Date published: February 24 2012

Geordan Murphy will captain Leicester in his 300th first-team game for the club in Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture against Newcastle.

Geordan Murphy will captain Leicester in his 300th first-team game for the club in Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture against Newcastle Falcons.

Full-back Murphy made his Tigers debut as a teenager in November 1997 and has played in seven Premiership-winning squads as well as four finals of Europe's Heineken Cup with the club. He has also gained 72 caps for Ireland and played in two Tests with the British & Irish Lions.

“Reaching 300 games for the club is an excellent achievement and Geordan will go down in the list of Leicester Tigers all-time greats,” said Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill.

“He is an outstanding player and captain, and he has shown great loyalty to Leicester over the years. I'm sure he'll receive a great reception from the supporters this weekend and he thoroughly deserves it.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle Falcons have made two changes for Saturday's trip to Leicester Tigers as Jeremy Manning gets the nod on the wing while Andrew van der Heijden starts in the second-row in place of the suspended Adriaan Fondse.

Kiwi back-rower Richard Mayhew has a place on the bench as the Falcons continue their Premiership survival bid at Welford Road.

Last weekend's 19-10 victory over London Irish at Kingston Park narrowed the gap to just six points at the foot of the table.

Ryan Shortland's breakaway try coupled with a sturdy rearguard ensured a crucial triumph for the men from the north.

And defence coach Mike Ford, who saw his side not concede a single point in the second-half, is delighted with the attitude of the players.

“We have to match Leicester in the physicality battle and if you do not turn up for a scrap at Welford Road then you are going to get beat,” said Ford.

“You have to have that mentality and I am talking legally of course – we have to make sure that we do not get bullied and front up physically.

“With all the will in the world we could have the best tactics in the world but if we do not front up then we are going to lose.”

The Falcons succumbed to a 24-13 defeat at the Tigers in the LV= Cup earlier this month with Lancashire man Ford admitting his side failed to match their opponents in the physicality stakes.

“We stuck to our guns and gave it our best shot but ultimately we lost in the physicality battle. If we get things right in that department then we have got a great chance – the training session that we took the other day was as good as I have seen since I arrived here in terms of intensity,” he said.

Arriving on Tyneside in the bleak midwinter, the new coaching trio of Gary Gold, Mike Ford and John Wells have instilled a new-found belief into the Falcons.

But Ford insists there is still a long way to go, saying: “The players have been great and they have been receptive to what we are trying to do.

“We have changed the way that we train in terms of the increased level of intensity as well as the time that the boys train.

“The lads have set themselves high standards and we have changed their way of thinking in the few weeks that we have been here. We understand that there is a long way to go but the most important thing is that the boys have bought into what we are doing.”

Form: Leicester Tigers' only defeat in Aviva Premiership Rugby since round six is 11-19 at Exeter on 11 February. The Tigers have won their last seven games at Welford Road in all competitions, and have not lost at the venue since table-topping Quins were the visitors on 8 October. Newcastle Falcons' four game losing streak in Aviva Premiership Rugby ended on Saturday with their 19-10 home victory over London Irish. The Falcons only away win since March was 34-3 at Petrarca Padova in the Amlin Challenge Cup on 19 November. Leicester have won their last six encounters with the Falcons, whilst Newcastle's only victory at Welford Road since 1977 remains the 25-19 score on 30 December 1997.

The teams:

Leicester: 15 Geordan Murphy (capt), 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Scott Hamilton, 10 George Ford, 9 James Grindal, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 George Skivington, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Logoviii Mulipola, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Julian White, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Craig Newby, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Jeremy Staunton, 23 Niall Morris.

Newcastle: 15 Greg Goosen, 14 Tom Bedford, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Jeremy Manning, 10 Jimmy Gopperth (c), 9 Chris Pilgrim, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch, 6 Ally Hogg, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Andrew van der Heijden, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Rob Vickers, 1 Grant Shiells.
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Jonny Golding, 18 Ashley Wells, 19 Taiasina Tu'ifua, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Rikki Sheriffe, 23 Joel Hodgson.

Date: Saturday, February 25
Kick-off: 15:00
Venue: Welford Road
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Don Helme, Rhys Davies