Newcastle Falcons have made one change to their starting line-up to face Northampton Saints at Kingston Park on Sunday.
Mark Wilson returns to the back row and will be replaced in the second row berth he has occupied so effectively by England international Mouritz Botha.
Making his first start since the Falcons’ European victory over Brive, Botha will partner the incumbent Sean Robinson, the Falcons Academy graduate having this week been named as the league’s top line-out performer.
Wilson, meanwhile, will move into the blindside flanker position where he will play alongside club captain Will Welch who moves over to the openside as cover for the injured Nili Latu, the Tongan captain awaiting a late fitness decision after leaving the field injured last weekend.
Scotland international Ally Hogg completes the back row at number eight, where he will make his 138th appearance for the club.
The Falcons’ front row remains unchanged, Bobby Vickers fast closing in on his 200th club appearance as he dons the loosehead jersey, with Scott Lawson continuing at hooker and Tongan international Taione Vea retaining his spot at tighthead prop.
Within the backline Simon Hammersley continues at full-back after a dynamic try-scoring performance last weekend, while Alex Tait and Marcus Watson will once again provide support on the wings.
After touching down for the Falcons’ second try last weekend, Adam Powell will make his 73rd club appearance on Sunday in the centre of the team, joined by Chris Harris who returns to the outside centre position.
Veteran fly-half Andy Goode will again occupy the Falcons’ number 10 shirt, with scrum-half Michael Young completing the starting line-up in what will be his 95th appearance for the club.
Meanwhile within the Falcons’ replacements, Italian international Josh Furno will be hoping to return to the field for the first time this year after a lengthy ear and hamstring injury. Front row support is provided by Japanese international Kensuke Hatakeyama, fellow prop Alex Rogers and hooker George McGuigan.
Further international support is provided on the bench by Tongan scrum-half Tane Takulua and Argentine centre Juan Pablo Socino, with fly-half Craig Willis completing the match day 23.
Meanwhile, Northampton will field the same 23 that earned a bonus point win against London Irish last time out.
With Newcastle in the middle of a good run of home form forwards coach Dorian West is aware of the challenges that the Falcons will pose, and he previews the game in this week’s official podcast. There is also an extended interview with Stephen Myler, who reflects on over nine years and 274 appearances in black, green and gold, as well as chats with James Wilson and hooker Reece Marshall.
Form: Newcastle Falcons last six matches in Aviva Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Tynesiders only defeat at Kingston Park in their last seven outings in all competitions was to Saracens in Premiership Rugby on 6th December. Northampton Saints have lost just one of their last five first-team fixtures: 11-24 at home to Wasps in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 29th January. Saints have won their last two away games, at Scarlets and Harlequins, and have not won three in a row on their travels since December 2014. Northampton have won their last dozen fixtures with Newcastle in all competitions since the Falcons 19-13 victory at Franklin’s Gardens in Premiership Rugby in February 2009, whilst Falcons’ most recent win against the Saints at Kingston Park was in September 2008.
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Michael Young, 8 Ally Hogg%u200B, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Mark Wilson, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Taione Vea, 2. Scott Lawson, 1. Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 19 Josh Furno, 20 Nili Latu, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Craig Willis, 23 Juan Socino
Northampton: 15 Ben foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 James Wilson, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson,(c) 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Christian Day, 4 James Craig, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacemetnts: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 George Pisi
Date: Sunday, February 21
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce, Andy Watson
TMO: David Sainsbury