Manu Tuilagi makes his comeback from injury in the Leicester backline for Sunday's Aviva Premiership fixture against Newcastle.
Manu Tuilagi makes his comeback from injury in the Tigers backline for Sunday's Aviva Premiership fixture with Newcastle at Kingston Park.
The 22-year-old has been out since suffering a chest injury in the first meeting of these two clubs in Round Three back in September.
He joins Dan Bowden in the Tigers midfield, with top try-scorer Vereniki Goneva moving to the wing after scoring in last week's win over London Irish.
“Manu has been unlucky with the injury and he's just had to be patient. But he has been training well, he's been able to do all his running and conditioning while the injury has healed and he's raring to go again,” said boss Richard Cockerill.
The only changes in the forward pack from last weekend include a start for Tom Youngs at hooker and for Argentina international Pablo Matera in the back row.
Meanwhile, Newcastle Falcons have made six changes from the side that snatched a losing bonus-point at home to Northampton Saints for this Sunday's Premiership clash.
Lee Smith has been handed his debut, two weeks after his cross-code switch from Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. The 27-year-old, who won three consecutive Super League Grand Finals and a World Club Challenge during his time with Leeds Rhinos as well as scoring seven tries in eight games for England, starts on the wing. Meanwhile, experienced Scottish duo Phil Godman and Mike Blair form the half-back combination with Adam Powell coming in for the injured Jamie Helleur at centre.
Up front, Scotland hooker Scott Lawson is back in the mix following his Six Nations exploits against England and Italy respectively. Making his 40th appearance for Scotland in the Calcutta Cup, Lawson was in fine form for his country in Rome last week as a last minute drop-goal from Duncan Weir secured a 21-20 victory over the Azzurri. England Saxon Kieran Brookes replaces Oliver Tomaszczyk at tighthead and faces his former employees, while Andy Saull returns to the back-row with Mark Wilson switching to No.8 in place of Ally Hogg, who is ruled out through injury.
“Week in, week out we have gradually been getting stronger and we could have and most probably should have beaten Quins down at their place a couple of weeks ago,” said head coach Peter Russell.
“Leicester will be a big test for us and we will have to be on top form in order to get anything out of the game.”
“It's important that we continue with the energy that we showed against Northampton in the second half. It's all about our attitude and preparations have been going well throughout the week and in the last three games we've probably played 60 minutes of good rugby in each,” added the Kiwi coach.
Form: Newcastle Falcons have been defeated in their last nine Aviva Premiership encounters and are closing in on their worst run in the tournament, which was 11 straight defeats during 2011. The Falcons have won two of their last three contests at Kingston Park in all tournaments beating Bucharest Wolves and the Dragons in January. Leicester Tigers are unbeaten in their last five Premiership matches since 21st December, a run which included a 27-all draw with Bath at Welford Road on 5th January. The Tigers have gained 16 league points from their last six away games; only Saracens and Northampton have gleaned more. Leicester have won their last 8 fixtures with the Falcons in all tournaments since Newcastle were victorious 14-10 in the Premiership at Kingston Park on 27th March 2009.
Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Lee Smith, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Will Welch (c), 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 Scott MacLeod, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Danny Barnes.
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Pablo Matera, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Ed Slater (c), 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Logovi'i Mulipola, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 David Mele, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Adam Thompstone.
Date: Sunday, March 2
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Venue: Kingston Park
Referee: Gregory Garner
Assistant referees: Andy Watson, Gareth Copsey
Television match official: Graham Hughes
Timekeeper: David Hudson
Assessor: Brian Campsall