Preview: Leicester v Newcastle

Date published: September 5 2014

Seremaia Bai, Freddie Burns and Leonardo Ghiraldini will make their competitive debuts for Leicester against Newcastle on Saturday.

Seremaia Bai, Freddie Burns and Leonardo Ghiraldini will make their competitive debuts for Leicester Tigers against Newcastle Falcons at Welford Road on Saturday.

Fiji international Bai teams up with Manu Tuilagi at centre, while Burns is at fly-half, with Ghiraldini starting a hooker.

Another new signing, Robert Barbieri, is named among the replacements.

Ben Youngs leads Tigers as captain for the first time in league competition, while Tom Croft starts the season in the back row alongside Julian Salvi and Jordan Crane.

Club captain Ed Slater, and senior pros Anthony Allen and Louis Deacon, are among those sidelined by injury this week.

Tigers are also without Miles Benjamin, Gonzalo Camacho, Dan Cole, Scott Hamilton, Pablo Matera, Geoff Parling, Laurence Pearce, Michele Rizzo, Adam Thompstone and Brad Thorn. Marcos Ayerza is on international duty with Argentina.

Meanwhile, Newcastle full-back Simon Hammersley is poised to make his Aviva Premiership debut after impressing in all three of his pre-season appearances.

He lines up alongside four other players looking to wear Falcons colours for the first time in English rugby's top flight.

New signings Juan Pablo Socino and Josh Furno will both start for the club with Calum Green also featuring in the starting line-up against his former club and former Tigers wing Alesana Tuilagi travelling as a replacement.

Another player in tomorrow's first XV is last year's Young Player of the Season George McGuigan, who has fought off competition from Scotland international Scott Lawson and former Tiger Rob Hawkins to claim the number two jersey as his own for tomorrow's game.

Newcastle's director of rugby Dean Richards said: “George is starting at hooker which is fantastic from his point of view.

“He's really stepped up to the mark and I'm really pleased for him.

“Over the last two or three weeks we've seen a real upturn in the guys' execution of the processes we've been putting in place, and from Bayonne to Rotherham to Edinburgh they've seen the opportunities and have also seen the opportunities that have gone begging, and have tried to rectify those things.”

With Mark Wilson falling victim to an ear infection, the Falcons' injury tally is stacking up, but Richards remains confident that the squad for Saturday's game remains strong.

“These are the guys who have understood exactly what's been asked of them throughout pre-season.

“We have Calum and Josh in the second row tomorrow with Dom on the bench and all of those boys have been fantastic in pre-season.

“Calum is going back to his old club with a point to prove and Josh has a fantastic engine on him and will run all over the place.

“Our new signings have integrated well into the team but the difficulty we have is that Kane (Thompson), Alex and Andy (Tuilagi) arrived late so it's taking them a little while to get into our way of playing.

“Alex will start on the bench tomorrow because for him in the wing it's that bit easier for him to slot in than it would be for Andy in the centre.

“Tomorrow's game will give us a good measure of where we stand; away to Tigers is an incredibly tough opener to the season. We're going there to give it our all and I'll be disappointed if we don't win.

“The boys have adopted that attitude too – they're going out there and anything other than getting something out of the game will be disappointing.”

Form: Tigers finished last season third in the table, before losing to eventual champions Northampton Saints in the semi-final. Opponents Newcastle Falcons have not won at Welford Road since 1997 and are without an opening day Premiership win anywhere since 2007.

The teams:

Leicester: 15 Niall Morris, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Seremaia Bai, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs (c), 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Sebastian De Chaves, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Logovi'i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Jamie Gibson, 20 Robert Barbieri, 21 David Mele, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Matt Smith.

Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Noah Cato, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Richard Mayhew, 5 Josh Furno, 4 Calum Green, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Dom Barrow, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Alex Tuilagi, 23 Gonzalo Tiesi

Date: Saturday, September 6
Venue: Welford Road
Kickoff: 15:00 (local, 14:00 GMT)
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Andy Watson, Nigel Carrick
TMO: David Grashoff