Preview: Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins

Date published: December 2 2016

Evan Olmstead returns from international duty as Newcastle Falcons make three changes for Sunday’s Premiership visit of Harlequins.

The Canadian lock goes straight into the side after starting all three of his country’s internationals against Romania, Ireland and Samoa, replacing the suspended Calum Green.

Alex Tait’s positional switch to the wing sees Mike Delany coming in at full-back, Fred Burdon making his first Premiership start after impressing from the bench during last Friday’s 22-16 victory at Northampton.

Mark Wilson once again captains the side, scrum-half Sonatane Takulua named on the bench after the Tongan slotted the winning penalty for his country in last weekend’s victory over Italy.

Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards insisted his side had gained confidence from last week’s second away win of the season, but that it would not be allowed to translate into complacency on Sunday.

“We had a good win down at Gloucester and now we can add Northampton to that list – our away form is improving and the boys are in a good place,” he said.

“Training has been good. The boys have had smiles on their faces, and deservedly so, but they are looking forward to Sunday rather than what they did last week. When you are playing a good side like Harlequins you can’t show any degree of complacency, because they are a side who love to play rugby. On a surface like we have up here it will be an exciting game, whatever happens.”

Meanwhile, Australian international James Horwill returns from a finger injury to captain Harlequins in the second row.

Welsh and British and Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts starts following the completion of his international commitments with Wales. 

Tim Swiel is named at fly-half, replacing Nick Evans who injured his hand in last week’s victory over Bath. Evans is expected to be out for a few weeks.

Among the replacements, Dave Ward will look to make his 100th appearance for the Club.

Harlequins director of rugby, John Kingston, said: “We are very pleased to have James Horwill and Jamie Roberts back into the fray for what will be an undoubtedly tough trip to Newcastle on Sunday.

“Falcons had an excellent victory over Northampton Saints last weekend and while they will be looking to build on this, it’s important that we in turn follow up the success we had against Bath.”

Form: Newcastle Falcons won at Northampton on Friday and have not recorded successive Premiership victories since February. The Falcons have won just three of their last eight home games in the Premiership, against London Irish, Sale and Bristol. Harlequins' only defeat in the last four rounds of the Premiership was 6-25 at Leicester in Round 8. The Londoners’ only victory in their last eleven away games in the Premiership was 32-25 at relegated London Irish in Round 21 last season. The last five encounters between the two clubs have all gone with home field advantage whilst Quins' only victory at Kingston Park in the Premiership in the last decade was 35-9 in December 2013. 

The teams:

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Mike Delany, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Fred Burdon, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Alex Tait, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Michael Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Mark Wilson (c), 6 Callum Chick, 5 Will Witty, 4 Evan Olmstead, 3 David Wilson, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Opeti Fonua, 20 Nick Civetta, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Marcus Watson, 23 Dominic Waldouck

Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Jack Clifford, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 James Chisholm, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Adam Jones, 19 George Merrick, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Charlie Walker

Date: Sunday, December 4
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Gareth Copsey
TMO: David Grashoff