Newcastle welcome Jeremy Manning's return to full-back for their crunch Aviva Premiership clash with Leeds at Kingston Park.
Newcastle Falcons' Jeremy Manning will make a welcome return to full-back for Saturday's crunch Aviva Premiership clash with Leeds Carnegie at Kingston Park.
The talented Kiwi was carried off on a stretcher during the Falcons magnificent 33-18 triumph over Harlequins on March 4 following a heavy collision. But after a rigorous rehabilitation programme over the past five weeks, the 25-year-old is available for selection for this weekend's Premiership showdown.
Head coach Alan Tait has made four further changes to his starting line-up, as the Scotsman rotates his back division and forward pack. Top try scorer Luke Fielden returns to the right wing, while Alex Tait switches from full-back to the other flank, with Tane Tu'ipulotu occupying inside centre.
Jonny Golding starts in the front row alongside Matt Thompson, with giant Kiwi lock Andrew Van der Heijden partnering Tim Swinson in the engine room. James Hudson misses out through injury as Tait hands New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth the captaincy for this crucial rearranged fixture.
“I really want us to open up and play a fast, attacking game,” said Tait.
“That style of play can be difficult on wetter pitches, but the conditions on Saturday should be perfect. The improved weather will suit us, and we certainly train that way in terms of getting the ball through the hands and looking to attack.”
The northeasterners defeated their West Yorkshire counterparts 22-5 back in February, and Tait acknowledges that tomorrow will be a big test of character for his players, saying: “We are in our own back yard, the boys have been playing some good rugby and we are starting to show that we can live with the top teams in the Aviva Premiership.
“In the past fortnight we have played two really good sides in Saracens and Gloucester, and we have lived with their intensity for an hour or so.
“A little bit of indiscipline has hindered us in the latter stages of those games, but I am sure that if we play how we have been training then we can get the result.
“We beat their A-Team 40-3 up here a fortnight ago, but it was only 5-3 at half-time and they were fighting for every single ball. They were very physical, and they won't change much for this weekend even though the personnel will be different.”
Meanwhile, Leeds head coach Neil Back has been able to name an unchanged 23 man squad for the first time this season.
The same 23 who featured against Exeter Chiefs last Sunday at Headingley Carnegie have been retained for this week's trip to the North East.
The Leeds line-up includes former Newcastle star Michael Stephenson who spent six seasons at Kingston Park. Alfie To'oala, who scored in the 16-15 win at Newcastle last season, is one of six players still in the starting line-up from that game.
Form: The Falcons beat Leeds when the two clubs met in February at Headingley Carnegie, and are going for a first season's double over the Yorkshiremen since season 2005/06. Leeds won 16-15 on their most recent visit to Kingston Park. Newcastle Falcons have slipped to three straight defeats in all competitions and will want to avoid defeat to steer clear of propping up the Premiership table for the first time since March 2003. Leeds Carnegie's three Aviva Premiership victories this season have all been at home. On the road Leeds have a played eight, lost eight record, and have not won away since they visited London Irish on 18 April 2010.
Newcastle: 15 Jeremy Manning, 14 Luke Fielden, 13 Luke Eves, 12 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 11 Alex Tait, 10 Jimmy Gopperth (c), 9 Micky Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch, 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Andrew Van Der Heijden, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Jonny Golding.
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Filipo Levi, 20 Alex Gray, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Gcobani Bobo, 23 Rob Vickerman.
Leeds: 15 Michael Stephenson, 14 Lee Blackett, 13 Henry Faafili, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Peter Wackett, 10 Adrian Jarvis, 9 Scott Mathie, 8 Alfie To'oala, 7 Hendre Fourie, 6 Kearnan Myall, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Daniel Browne, 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Gareth Hardy.
Replacements: 16 Phil Nilsen, 17 Gareth Denman, 18 Juan Gomez, 19 Rhys Oakley, 20 Danny Paul, 21 Dan White, 22 Christian Lewis-Pratt, 23 Semi Tadulala.
Date: Saturday, April 9
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Alan Biggs, Paul Dix