Preview: Newcastle v Leicester

Date published: March 6 2015

International hooker Tom Youngs will captain Leicester Tigers for the first time in Sunday's Premiership fixture against Newcastle Falcons.

Youngs, Tom Croft and Geoff Parling all take their places in the starting line-up after being released from England's Six Nations squad.

Parling is partnered by Sebastian De Chaves in the Tigers second-row, with Laurence Pearce at number eight.

Niall Morris returns to the team in the only change to the backline following last week's win over Sale Sharks.

There is a place among the replacements for Julian Salvi after missing the last two games with a calf injury and for hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini as he returns from international duty with Italy.

Newcastle's performances have certainly improved in recent weeks but the wins aren't coming as a result, with London Welsh the only side they've beaten going back to January.

The news of Simon Hammersley's contract extension will be a welcome boost for the club given the full-back has been a standout performer this season having come from relative obscurity.

Leicester's poor start to the season meanwhile has almost been wiped out as they have crept up on the top four to join that congested group, now just one point off second. Losing Owen Williams to injury could have been a disaster but Freddie Burns has stepped up in recent weeks, with the Tigers scrum a potent weapon.

Meanwhile, the Falcons have made three changes from the side that earned a losing bonus-point at Saracens.

The main section of the backline remains unchanged, and having demonstrated some of his brutally effective power last week to score a try, Alesana Tuilagi will have an opportunity to unleash that on his former club while Alex Tait is set for a bout of sibling rivalry at full-back, against brother Mathew.

At half-back, an injury picked up by Mike Blair offers Ruki Tipuna the chance to impose the fast, upbeat tempo he has brought to recent matches from the bench, right from the off while Tom Catterick retains the fly-half jersey for seventh Aviva Premiership match in a row.

In the forward pack, changes come in the front and back-rows as an injury sustained by Juan Pablo Orlandi on a pectoral muscle sees Alex Rogers come in for his first start for the club at tighthead prop.

Stalwarts of the loosehead and hooker shirts this season, Rob Vickers and Scott Lawson retain those positions while Kane Thompson and Dom Barrow remain in place as the starting locks.

In the back-row, a fit again Richard Mayhew returns on the blindside flank with club captain Will Welch switching over to his usual openside role alongside Mark Wilson at number eight.

Form: Newcastle Falcons have won only one of their last eight Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, 38-7 at home to bottom of the table London Welsh in round 13. The Falcons are unbeaten at Kingston Park in Premiership Rugby in 2015. The only side that has scored more league points in the last six rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby than Leicester Tigers is Wasps with 22 to Leicester’s 21, the Tigers only defeat in that period coming on a trip to Harlequins in round 13. The Tigers are the third best away team in Premiership Rugby – only Exeter and Northampton have scored more points on the road this season. Leicester have won their last ten matches against Newcastle in all tournaments since the Falcons’ 14-10 victory at Kingston Park in Premiership Rugby on 27 March 2009.

The teams:

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tom Catterick, 9 Ruki Tipuna, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch, 6 Richard Mayhew, 5 Dom Barrow, 4 Kane Thompson, 3 Alex Rogers, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Mark Irving, 18 Rob O'Donnell, 19 Josh Furno, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Gonzalo Tiesi, 23 Noah Cato.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Vereneki Goneva, 12 Seremaia Bai, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Laurence Pearce, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Sebastian De Chaves, 3 Logovi'i Mulipola, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Jordan Crane, 20 Julian Salvi, 21 David Mele, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Jack Roberts.

Date: Sunday, 8 March
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 15.00 GMT
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson & Roy Maybank
TMO: Trevor Fisher