Preview: Newcastle v Harlequins

Date published: May 15 2015

Newcastle will look to end the 2014/15 season on a high against Harlequins this Saturday, as the club bring in five international players amongst seven changes to their starting line-up.

The Falcons’ replacements include wing Zach Kibirige, who will be hoping to make his first appearance for the club since returning from the injury he sustained against Gloucester late last season.

Scotland international Mike Blair will captain the team while Alesana Tuilagi (Samoa), Eric Fry (USA), Scott MacLeod (Scotland) and Uili Kolo’ofai (Tonga) all return to the starting line-up alongside Tom Catterick and Richard Mayhew

With Simon Hammersley continuing at full-back, Tuilagi will partner Alex Tait on the wing this weekend following Sinoti Sinoti’s head injury away to Sale in the last round of the competition.

Adam Powell and Juan Pablo Socino provide an unchanged centre pairing, both making their 27th appearances of the season, while Tom Catterick returns to fly-half after a short period out due to illness.

Blair regains the number nine shirt and takes on captaincy duties in what will be the former British and Irish Lion’s final appearance in a Falcons shirt before taking up a playing and coaching role at Glasgow Warriors.

Fellow Scottish international Scott Lawson and England international Kieran Brookes – the latter making his 83rd and final appearance for the club – continue in the front-row, joined at loosehead by USA international Fry.

Calum Green retains his position in the second-row, this week partnered by recently capped Barbarian MacLeod who comes in for Kane Thompson.

The Falcons’ back-row sees two changes, Mark Wilson moving over to the openside flank joined by Mayhew at blindside and Kolo’ofai at eight.

Meanwhile, there are seven changes to the Harlequins starting team that played Bath last week.

Danny Care captains the side and is joined in the backline with Charlie Walker and debutant Joe Marchant.

18-year-old Marchant starred in the recent U20s Six Nations, scoring six tries in the five matches, helping England to the title; the centre was this week named in the U20s squad for the Junior World Cup in Italy this summer.

In the forwards Darryl Marfo starts in his last match for the club, while Charlie Matthews and George Merrick make up the second-row.

James Chisholm is named in the back-row alongside Netani Talei and Jack Clifford, who picked up three awards during Harlequins’ End of Season Awards Dinner this week.

Among the replacements are Joe Trayfoot and Tom Williams, who announced his retirement from full-time rugby this week, and both will look to make their final appearances for the club.

Form: Newcastle Falcons have already ensured that they will finish in 11th place in Aviva Premiership Rugby for a second successive season. Falcons are without a victory in their last eight fixtures in the competition since beating London Welsh at Kingston Park on 11th January. Harlequins have missed out on a Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final spot for the first time since 2011 but won their most recent away game in the tournament 25-23 at Sale in round 20 and have not managed to win back-to-back away games in the competition this season. The Falcons only victory over the Londoners in their last ten Premiership Rugby encounters since 2009 was 33-18 at Kingston Park in March 2011.

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tom Catterick, 9 Mike Blair (c), 8 Uili Kolo’ofai, 7 Mark Wilson, 6 Richard Mayhew, 5 Scott Macleod, 4 Calum Green, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Eric Fry.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Alex Rogers, 19 Will Witty, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Andy Tuilagi, 23 Zach Kibirige.

Harlequins: 15 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care (c), 8 Netani Talei, 7 Jack Clifford, 6 James Chisholm, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 George Merrick, 3 Matt Shields, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Darryl Marfo.

Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Rob Buchanan, 18 Seb Adeniran-Olule, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Tom Williams.

Date: Saturday, May 16
Kick-off: 15:30 BST, 14:30 GMT
Venue: Kingston Park
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant Referees: Steve Lee, Robin Goodliffe
TMO: David Sainsbury