Preview: Newcastle Falcons v Saracens

Date published: December 4 2015

Newcastle Falcons have named a side showing two changes from the Aviva Premiership round five draw at Sale Sharks, as league leaders and defending champions Saracens travel to the North East on Sunday.

Both changes come in the backline as Belisario Agulla and Tom Catterick come in for Giamba Venditti and Mike Delany respectively.

In what will be his first Premiership start, Agulla will be looking to harness the exciting form displayed in the Challenge Cup against Brive and in the Aviva ‘A’ League against Northampton and Worcester, as he continues to integrate well into the Kingston Park environment.

With Mike Delany out after leaving the field through injury last weekend, Tom Catterick makes his 46th Aviva Premiership start, continuing his ever presence in the match day 23 in season 2015/16 and resuming the orchestration of the side he performed against Brive and Enisei in the Challenge Cup.

Alex Tait will again don the number 15 jersey following an assured display at full-back, Adam Powell and Juan Pablo Socino continue in the centres as Marcus Watson retains his starting spot on the left wing, while Michael Young continues to provide service from scrum-half.

The pack remains completely unchanged, with try scorers Rob Vickers and Jon Welsh packing down alongside George McGuigan in a front row.

Calum Green and Sean Robinson line up in the second while Mark Wilson, Will Welch and Nili Latu complete the scrum’s back row.

Meanwhile, fresh from signing a multi-year contract extension with the Allianz Park club, Jamie George will skipper Saracens in the North East, with the England hooker handed the captain’s armband for the second time this season.

George will pack down alongside Richard Barrington and Juan Figallo in the Sarries front row. George Kruis and Maro Itoje will partner each other in the second row, with Alistair Hargreaves and Jim Hamilton both unavailable. Will Fraser will start at openside flanker at Kingston Park

At half-back, Ben Spencer will make his fourth Premiership start of the season at scrum-half after a fine display against Worcester Warriors in the London Double Header, and will partner Charlie Hodgson in the half-backs.

At centre, Scotland international Duncan Taylor will wear the number 12 jersey with Nick Tompkins named at outside centre.

In the back three, England international Alex Goode returns to the side and will link-up with Chris Wyles and Mike Ellery.

Ahead of the game, Mark McCall: “We are well aware of the task that faces us on Sunday afternoon. The Falcons ran us very close in our last meeting at Kingston Park, and we are expecting another tough game this weekend.

“We are on a good a run, but that will mean very little if we don’t turn up on Sunday with the right approach. Dean Richards has put together a very strong squad at Newcastle who are traditionally very strong at home. It will be a real test for us.”

Form: Newcastle Falcons recorded their first two league point of the new Premiership Rugby season courtesy of a 15-all draw at Sale last Saturday. Newcastle have won only one of their last 14 Premiership Rugby fixtures: 37-21 at home to Harlequins on 16 May. Saracens continue to set the pace at the top of the Aviva Premiership rugby table with a perfect played five, won five record. The defending champions have won their last ten matches in all competitions since Exeter Chiefs beat them at Allianz Park in Premiership Rugby in May. Saracens have won the last dozen encounters between the two clubs in all tournaments since Newcastle were victorious in Premiership Rugby at Kingston Park in February 2009. Saracens have won on their last five visits to Kingston Park with the Falcons recording a losing bonus point in each instance.

The teams:

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

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Jamie George (c), 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Neil De Kock, 22 Tim Streather, 23 Ben Ransom

Date: Sunday, December 6
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell, Andy Watson
TMO: David Grashoff