Preview: Newcastle v London Irish

Date published: September 12 2014

Newcastle Falcons have made three changes to the starting XV from their opening match of the Aviva Premiership season.

Newcastle Falcons have made three changes to the starting XV from their opening match of the Aviva Premiership season as Eric Fry, Scott Lawson and Mark Wilson coming into the side in place of Rob Vickers, George McGuigan and Richard Mayhew against London Irish.

After a highly creditable performance away to Leicester Tigers in round 1, Dean Richards and the rest of the Falcons coaching team have felt no need to make wholesale changes to the squad, as they go hunting for the first win of the season.

The strength and depth available in the 2014/2015 squad is well demonstrated with the two changes in the front row as USA international Fry and Scotland international Lawson come into the side, as knocks picked up at Welford Road rule out Vickers and McGuigan this week.

Sunday's front row is completed by Olivier Tomaszczyk while in the second row, signings Callum Green and Josh Furno remain in situ.

In the back-row, Cumbrian Wilson makes his first start of the new season at blindside flanker, after being ruled out last week through illness, while the rest of the back row remains unchanged with Will Welch captaining from openside flanker and Ally Hogg continuing at number eight.

With no changes in the back division, the well-established pairing of Mike Blair and Phil Godman continue in the half backs as does the partnership in the centres between Adam Powell and Juan Pablo Socino.

All four players combined well in the season opener and will be looking to build on their interplay at Welford Road which showed many signs of promise against the Tigers.

The stability in selection concludes in the back three with Noah Cato and Sinoti SInoti continuing on the wings while Simon Hammersley gets the opportunity to make a home Aviva Premiership debut at full-back.

With home advantage proving crucial in recent Falcons versus Irish fixtures, with the last seven matches going the way of the home team, Director of Rugby Dean Richards believes the continuity in selection from last week can secure the four points on Sunday.

“It's always helpful when you can call upon the same core squad week to week as it allows the players to breed confidence and an understanding of their combined abilities,” said Richards.

“Form and injuries obviously play a part across a season, but being able to select the vast majority of last week's team allows us to try and build on what I felt was an encouraging start.”

Meanwhile, David Paice will lead London Irish onto the field against Newcastle as he makes his 200th appearance for the club.

The international hooker joins an illustrious group of players in achieving the milestone in his 11th season as a London Irish player.

Paice will start in an unchanged front row from last weekend's London Double Header alongside Halani Aulika and Tom Court. George Skivington will captain the side from the second row, partnering Dan Leo. Blair Cowan, Ofisa Treviranus and Tom Guest remain the back-row trio.

Chris Noakes and Scott Steele form a new half-back pairing with Shane Geraghty moving into the centre to play alongside Fergus Mulchrone. Andrew Fenby and Alex Lewington come into the back three alongside James Short.

“Firstly I would like to congratulate David Paice on playing his 200th game for the club,” said Irish director of rugby Brian Smith.

“He has been an outstanding servant to London Irish over the years and we are all delighted for him.

“I thought Newcastle were very good in the opening match at Leicester and they are always tough to play against on their own patch. They are a well-coached and well-drilled so we will have to be at our best to get the result.”

Form: Newcastle Falcons have now been defeated in their last 17 Aviva Premiership Rugby matches since they won this equivalent fixture against London Irish at Kingston Park in round 6 last season. Newcastle have gained four home victories in other tournaments since then, beating London Irish and Newport Gwent Dragons in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, and Calvisano and Bucharest in European play. London Irish have recorded just two victories in the last nine Premiership fixtures, against Newcastle and Sale. The Exiles have not won away from home since they visited Wasps in the Premiership in February. The last seven encounters between the two clubs in all tournaments have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst London Irish have not been successful at Kingston Park since a 46-12 victory in the Premiership in September 2010.

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Noah Cato, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Josh Furno, 4 Calum Green, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Eric Fry.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Dom Barrow, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Alesana Tuilagi, 23 Jamie Helleur

London Irish: 15 Andrew Fenby, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Shane Geraghty, 11 James Short, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Tom Guest, 7 Ofisa Treviranus, 6 Blair Cowan, 5 Daniel Leo, 4 George Skivington (c), 3 Halani Aulika, 2 David Paice, 1 Tom Court
Replacements: 16 Gerard Ellis, 17 Matt Parr, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Kieran Low, 20 Luke Narraway, 21 Tomás O'Leary, 22 Eamonn Sheridan, 23 Topsy Ojo

Date: Sunday, September 14
Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Venue: Kingston Park
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant Referees: Gareth Copsey, Peter Huckle
TMO: Sean Davey