Preview: Newcastle v Saracens

Date published: December 26 2014

Newcastle have made minimal changes to their squad for this Saturday’s Premiership clash against Saracens, with three tweaks being made.

Director of rugby Dean Richards has opted on a mainly settled line up after his side broke the line almost at will at The Stoop and will be expecting a similar performance, with greater precision from his charges on Saturday afternoon.

In the backline, the only change is at full-back where Alex Tait comes in for Simon Hammersley, who was forced to withdraw midway during the first half at Quins.

The remainder remains the same, with a Samoan flavour on both wings in the shape of Sinoti Sinoti and Alesana Tuilagi and a balanced centre partnership with Adam Powell and Juan Pablo Socino in the outside and inside centre shirts respectively.

In the half-backs, the experienced head of Mike Blair continues at scrum-half while Tom Catterick gets a further chance to impress having shown very well in the position against Stade Francais and Harlequins in recent weeks.

In the pack, Scottish International Scott Lawson moves into the number two shirt to pack down alongside Rob Vickers and Scott Wilson in the front-row, whilst in the second, Calum Green is partnered by Kane Thompson, the Samoan lock coming in for Dom Barrow.

Completing the forwards, the back-row trio of Mark Wilson, Will Welch and Ally Hogg retain the six, seven and eight shirts form last week.

On the bench, front-row cover is provided by George McGuigan, Eric Fry and Kieran Brooks, while Josh Furno and Andy Saull will also be looking to provide impact in the second and back rows when called upon.

Ruki Tipuna provides cover at scrum-half while home grown talents Chris Harris and Tom Penny complete the replacements.

Meanwhile, Saracens have named a front-row of Mako Vunipola at loosehead prop, Jamie George at hooker and James Johnnston at tighthead.

In the second-row, skipper Alistair Hargreaves returns to the side and is partnered by Jim Hamilton.

In the back-row, Billy Vunipola comes into the side at blindside flanker, with Ernst Joubert continuing at number eight. Jacques Burger starts at openside flanker.

Richard Wigglesworth starts at scrum-half to partner Charlie Hodgson in the halves. Owen Farrell moves to inside centre to join Marcelo Bosch in the Saracens midfield.

In the back three, Chris Wyles continues in the number 11 shirt, with Chris Ashton named on the opposite wing. Alex Goode comes into the side at full-back.

Form: Newcastle Falcons have slipped to back-to-back defeats in Aviva Premiership Rugby, at home to Sale and away at Harlequins. The Falcons have won only twice at Kingston Park in Premiership Rugby since October 2013 – in successive home fixtures against Exeter and Gloucester in October and November this year. Saracens achieved their highest ever score and their biggest ever victory in Aviva Premiership Rugby when eclipsing London Welsh 78-7 at Allianz Park on Saturday. Saracens are winless in their last three away games in the competition since beating London Irish 36-32 in Reading in round 3. Saracens have won their last nine fixtures against the Falcons in all competitions since Newcastle’s 13-9 victory at Kingston Park in Premiership Rugby on 20th February 2009.

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tom Catterick 9 Mike Blair, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch, 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Scott Wilson, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Eric Fry, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Chris Harris, 23 Tom Penny.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Billy Vunipola, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 James Johnston, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements; 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil De Kock, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 David Strettle.

Date: Saturday, December 27
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Venue: Kingston Park
Referee: Luke Pearce (33rd Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Robin Goodliffe and John Meredith
TMO: Trevor Fisher