Preview: Newcastle v London Irish

Date published: February 17 2012

Gary Gold makes two changes for Saturday's clash with London Irish at Kingston Park as Newcastle go for back-to-back home wins.

Gary Gold makes two changes for their Aviva Premiership clash with London Irish at Kingston Park as the Falcons go for back-to-back home wins.

Tom Bedford starts for the first time since his move from Bedford Blues and replaces Suka Hufanga who has been rocked by the news that he will be out for the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament injury.

Meanwhile Taiasina Tu'ifua comes in for Ally Hogg in the back-row with the Scot missing out with a toe infection.

“We need to use this fantastic Kingston Park crowd to our advantage and we need to learn from the errors that we made last week,” said Gold, who saw his side succumb to a narrow 30-24 defeat at Bath last week.

“I do not think there is a crowd better known for their passionate support than the Newcastle faithful – it really makes a difference.

“We need to play rugby in the right areas of the field and it is potentially going to rain this weekend so again we need to be clever and we need to be smart.

“When we get the opportunities to score we need to be bold enough to execute our chances. The position that we are in at the moment is a reality but I do not think it should weigh us down – we should express ourselves and play.”

Fresh from signing a new three-year deal with the North East outfit, Gopperth admits he has been impressed with the new coaching set-up at Kingston Park.

“I have seen a change in attitude since they joined the club and I think it is important that the boys continue to work hard with Gary leading from the front,” he said.

“Gary has already made it clear that it is unacceptable to go through the motions and the training sessions are intense which is how they should be.

“If you train hard, you will play hard. There are no cutting corners and the key is that everyone is buying into their philosophy at the moment.

“We have a simple game-plan and it is crucial that every single player on the field as well as the replacements and even the guys that do not get selected for games are on the same page.”

Meanwhile, London Irish have named Nick Kennedy as captain of the side to play in the Round 15 fixture.

Max Lahiff comes into the starting XV after some impressive performances; David Paice and Faan Rautenbach make up the remainder of the front-row. Jonathan Spratt is joined by Jonathan Joseph in a new look centre partnership while Delon Armitage comes it at full back as Tom Homer moves to the wing.

“This is obviously a critical part of the season for everyone and accumulation of points in the Six Nations period is always vital,” said London Irish head coach Toby Booth.

“Newcastle have seen a massive turn in performance and people shouldn't underestimate them especially at home where they've won five out of their last seven game.”

Form: Newcastle Falcons have won just once in Aviva Premiership Rugby since round five: 26-25 at home to Gloucester on 2 December. The Falcons have won five of their last seven encounters at Kingston Park in all competitions. London Irish's only win in their last five matches was 23-15 at home to Gloucester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 28 January. The Exiles have won just once on the road since September: 34-14 at Racing Metro in the European Cup on 10 December. The Falcons have won just one of their last 13 clashes with the Irish since February 2006: 15-11 at Madejski Stadium in the Premiership on 22 November 2009. London Irish have not lost at Kingston Park since 30 April 2005.

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Greg Goosen, 14 Tom Bedford, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth (capt), 9 Chris Pilgrim, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch, 6 Ally Hogg, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Rob Vickers, 1 Grant Shiells.
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Jonny Golding, 18 Ashley Wells, 19 Andrew van der Heijden, 20 Taiasina Tu'ifua , 21 Will Chudley, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Ricki Sherrife.

London Irish: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Tom Homer, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Jonathan Spratt, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Dan Bowden, 9 Darren Allinson, 8 Richard Thorpe, 7 Kieran Roche, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Bryn Evans, 4 Nick Kennedy (capt), 3 Faan Rautenbach, 2 David Paice, 1 Max Lahiff.
Replacements: 16 James Buckland, 17 Clarke Dermody, 18 Paulica Ion, 19 Bob Casey, 20 Ed Siggery, 21 Marland Yarde, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Paul Hodgson.

Date: Saturday, February 18
Kick-off: 15:00
Venue: Kingston Park
Referee: JP Doyle