Andy Goode is set to make his final appearance for Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park on Sunday, having been named on the bench for the Aviva Premiership visit of Wasps.
The 35-year-old former England fly-half is the second-highest points scorer in Premiership history, his three-month deal with the Falcons reaching a conclusion after coming out of retirement around the turn of the year.
With the Wasps game billed as ‘Goode Sunday’ in the pre-match marketing material, director of rugby Dean Richards was at pains to point out the positive impact made by the experienced stand-off during his brief but productive spell on Tyneside.
“Andy has been a big influence around the place at a time when he had a lot of injuries, with Mike Delany and Tom Catterick both out," he said.
"He has been absolutely fantastic for us. His bit of experience in terms of showing us how to get around the field has been invaluable to the youngsters.
“To be fair to him he has produced the goods. His body is just about clapped out at the moment. If he comes on this weekend it will probably be his last game of competitive rugby, and I hope he does come on. He has been embraced by the Geordies up here in a way that many others are not, and he is a character that everyone in the area has taken to.”
Goode said: “When the contract came round on December 28 it was always for three months because of Mike Delany’s injury. I have enjoyed it but that time has come to an end, Mike is back now and I leave with a smile on my face as I hang up the boots again.”
On his status as a fans’ favourite, he added: “I think they probably look at my body shape and the fact I like a beer, and they probably think they could do it as well.
"I probably relate to them a bit more than the chiselled athletes we see week in week out in most teams. The fans have been great with me and I am grateful for that. First and foremost I had to win over the boys and earn their respect, we have won a few games along the way and it has been good fun.”
Sunday’s game sees scrum-half Michael Young play his 100th competitive game for the Falcons, the side showing four changes from the one which took a bonus point at Bath last Friday.
Young replaces Sonatane Takulua in a back line which also sees the return of centre Adam Powell and winger Alex Tait – Sean Robinson the only addition to the forward pack as he replaces Mouritz Botha.
On Young’s century of appearances, Richards said: “Michael is outstanding. He is competitive, his skill set is challenging the boys every single week and he adds a huge amount to what we are about.”
Having lost 9-8 to Wasps when the sides met in Coventry last month, he added: “There have probably been four of those this year where, had we shown a little more accuracy, we would have won. Worcester is one, Wasps was another, as was Bath and there are a few more we can think of.
“We were disappointed on the day down at Wasps to lose by a point, and we know what they have got to offer. We know how they are going to play, it will be a physical battle, but we are ready for it and our boys are more than capable of competing.”
Wasps’ Director of Rugby Dai Young has named his squad to take on Newcastle Falcons on Easter Sunday, in Round 18 of the Aviva Premiership.
Meanwhile, England’s Grand Slam winners Joe Launchbury and Elliot Daly return to Wasps’ starting line-up, alongside Matt Mullan who skippers the side.
George Smith returns to the back row to join Sam Jones and Thomas Young, with Nathan Hughes ready to provide reinforcement from the bench.
In the backline Josh Bassett comes in on the left wing, while Elliot Daly and Siale Piutau form the centre partnership. Charles Piutau misses out through a hamstring injury.
Wasps’ Director of Rugby Dai Young said: “We’re pleased with the momentum we’ve been building but need to continue that this weekend if we are to maintain the strong position we currently hold in the table. Newcastle Falcons will be fighting for their lives and we are expecting another tough game at Kingston Park.
“We know how important the next two matches are in the Aviva Premiership, before we switch to Europe. They will have a huge bearing on where we finish in the league this season.
“Our goal has always been top six and I think we’ve got one foot in that top six now, but the next two weeks could determine whether we secure that goal and whether we can stay in the top four mix come the end of the season.
“It’s also Andy Goode’s farewell party this Sunday. Goodey’s a quality player and a fantastic character on and off the field. He’s done a great job for Newcastle in the short period of time he’s been there and he also did a great job moving us forward.
"From our point of view, hopefully this is one game he doesn’t finish with a smile on his face!”
Form: Newcastle Falcons have slipped to four straight defeats since their 26-25 victory over Northampton Saints at Kingston Park in round 12 of Premiership Rugby. The Falcons' 15-14 defeat at the hands of Worcester Warriors in their most recent home game ended a four-game winning run at Kingston Park. Wasps have lost only one of their last nine encounters in all tournaments, 13-10 at Gloucester in their most recent away game in Round 15 of Premiership Rugby. They have also not lost successive away games in the tournament since the start of this season. Wasps are unbeaten in their last five encounters with Falcons since Newcastle's 14-10 victory at Adams Park in May 2012.
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Michael Young, 8 Nili Latu, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Taione Vea, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Mike Cusack, 19 Ally Hogg, 20 Sinoti Sinoti, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Andy Goode, 23 Belisario Agulla
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Sam Jones, 7 George Smith, 6 Thomas Young, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Ashley Johnson, 1 Matt Mullan (c)
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 James Cannon, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Brendan Macken
Date: Sunday, March 27
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Roger Baileff, Roy Maybank
TMO: David Rose