Kiwi lock forward Andrew Van der Heijden is poised to make his first start for the Falcons against Exeter in the LV= Cup on Sunday.
Kiwi lock forward Andrew Van der Heijden is poised to make his first start for the Falcons against Exeter Chiefs in the LV= Cup on Sunday.
The 26-year-old former Super 14 player was snapped up on a two-year deal, and Van der Heijden believes a partisan Kingston Park crowd is just what the club needs to secure victory over their West Country counterparts.
“The Kingston Park crowds have been fantastic at every game I've been to so far,” said the New Zealander.
“It should be a really good atmosphere on Sunday and it would be great if we could see a few more fans down for Sunday's game. I'm really looking forward to the game and I can't wait.”
Head coach Alan Tait has made four further changes to the side that was narrowly beaten 11-6 at Bath last week. Robust prop James Hall comes in for Euan Murray who is away on international duty with Scotland. Jeremy Manning returns to his favoured full back berth with Alex Tait switching to the wing replacing Gcobani Bobo. And Luke Eves makes way for local boy James Fitzpatrick who is at 12.
Tait said: “Exeter are a big physical side and they set their stall out from the start keeping their big pack together. You look at their pack and you can see they are very well organised.
“When they get in to a rhythm you've got to stop them early and you've got to put the big men on the deck. With this group of players now we won't go far off form and they know they've got the jersey and it's up to them to keep hold of it.”
The Scotsman is relishing the prospect of progressing through to the semi-final of the LV= Cup, adding: “Cup rugby is all about taking your chance and if we win the game we're definitely through. It's a great incentive and I used to love cup rugby and it was a big part of my life when I played for Leeds and Widnes.”
Meanwhile, Nemani Nadolo may have only been in Devon a week, but Exeter boss Rob Baxter is ready to throw his new capture straight into the firing line against the Falcons.
The Fijian powerhouse, who tipped the scales at almost 21 stone this week, has agreed an 18-month deal with the Chiefs after leaving Top 14 side Bourgoin.
The international winger is one of six changes Baxter had made to his side from that which defeated Leicester 35-10 at Sandy Park in the same competition last Saturday.
His inclusion means Nic Sestaret moves into the centre in place of New Zealander Jason Shoemark; Paul McKenzie takes over at full-back from Mark Foster, who broke his leg in that game, Junior Poluleuligaga starts at scrum-half in place of Haydn Thomas, while in the pack there is a completely new front-row of Brett Sturgess, Chris Whitehead and Chris Budgen.
It is, however, the inclusion of 23-year-old Nadolo which is capturing the thoughts of many. An imposing figure out on the field, his other key attributes include pace to burn and a lethal finishing streak.
The player himself is relishing his chance of his first crack at playing in England, he said: “To get a start is a privilege, it's not every day you come into a new side and get to start a match. Thanks to Rob and the coaching staff , I've been given a chance to show what I've got and hopefully I can put in a good performance.
“It's not so much to go out there and try to have a blinder, it's more about trying to test the field with the side and try to play as a team. I'm here to play Premiership rugby and push for selection. They've rested some key wingers so this is my opportunity. If I want a chance to get into the 23, I've got to put in a solid performance.”
Newcastle: 15 Jeremy Manning, 14 Luke Fielden, 13 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Alex Tait, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Micky Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch, 6 Tim Swinson, 5 Andrew Van der Heijden, 4 James Hudson, 3 James Hall, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Jon Golding.
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Kieran Brookes, 18 Grant Shiells, 19 Glen Townson, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Hall Charlton, 22 Luke Eves, 23 Gcobani Bobo.
Exeter: 15 Paul McKenzie, 14 Nemani Nadolo, 13 Nic Sestaret, 12 Bryan Rennie, 11 Andrew Higgins, 10 Gareth Steenson (capt), 9 Junior Poluleuligaga, 8 James Phillips, 7 Andy Miller, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Dave Gannon, 4 Chad Slade, 3 Chris Budgen, 2 Chris Whitehead, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Jon Vickers, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Ignacio Elosu, 19 Eoghan Grace, 20 Herbie Stupple, 21 Garrick Cowley, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Josh Matavesi.
Date: Sunday, February 6
Venue: Kingston Park
Referee: Chris White (England)
Assistant referees: Dave Pearson (England), Alan Hughes (England)
Timekeeper: David Hudson (England)