Preview: Newcastle v Worcester

Date published: March 3 2016

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Newcastle Falcons will be hoping to continue their winning form at home when they face Worcester Warriors in the Premiership at Kingston Park this Friday.

Director of Rugby Dean Richards has made five changes to the starting XV that took on Gloucester last weekend as the team look to extend their home winning run to seven games in a row.

In the backline, Alex Tait returns to the right wing in place of Giamba Venditti in an otherwise settled selection that sees Simon Hammersley at full-back, Chris Harris and Adam Powell in the centres and Marcus Watson on the left wing.

Having shaken off the niggle that forced him to drop out against Gloucester, Andy Goode returns to the fly-half position, while Michael Young returns as starting scrum-half.

In the front row, the effective trio of Rob Vickers, Scott Lawson and Taione Vea remain as the starting loosehead, hooker and tighthead respectively, while Mark Wilson resumes his second row partnership with Sean Robinson.

In the back row, there is a welcome return for Nili Latu, who has recovered from the injury he sustained at the end of the match against Leicester Tigers alongside captain Will Welch and Ally Hogg.

On the bench, George McGuigan, Alex Rogers and Kensuke Hatakeyama provide front row options, while Mouritz Botha and Callum Chick, cover the second and back rows.

Chick’s inclusion sees the 19-year-old in line to make his first Premiership appearance for the club, having already made his first senior starts back in January in the Challenge Cup.

Sonatane Takulua swaps places with Young to take the replacement scrum-half spot, while Craig Willis and Juan Pable Socino complete the match day squad.

Meanwhile, for Worcester the experienced back-row Phil Dowson is the only change to the starting XV which pushed Northampton last weekend.

Dowson partners captain GJ van Velze and Dewald Potgieter in the back row while Donncha O'Callaghan lines up with Darren Barry in the second row.

Jaba Bregvadze keeps his place at hooker alongside props Val Rapava Ruskin and Nick Schonert, with the latter having started every Premiership game this term.

Cooper Vuna, the only other Warrior to have started every league game this season, is joined by Chris Pennell and Bryce Heem in the back three while Francois Hougaard starts at scrum-half where he'll continue to link-up with stand-off Tom Heathcote.

Ryan Mills and Wynand Olivier form the midfield partnership while Sam Betty is named on the replacements bench and could be set for his first appearance since January's clash at Wasps.

Director of Rugby Dean Ryan said: "There's nobody here that doesn't understand the significance of this game.

"Newcastle have developed a style of play which suits them at home and they've got decent momentum. The addition of Andy Goode has given them a boost. He's been a catalyst for their success. The game will be a bit faster on the 4G up there so it'll be more dynamic around rucks.

"We have to attack. I think it will suit us and the surface up there. Fingers crossed we don't get a storm because conditions can dictate how you approach a game in Newcastle."

Form: Worcester have failed to win in any of the ten games they have played on the road this season. Falcons' last eight home fixtures in Premiership have all been won by the home side on the day. That home form has coincided with the signing of Goode – who missed the loss against Gloucester last week – but Baldwin says they can ill-afford to worry about just one player with the stakes so high. However, the most important stat ahead of the match could be their last meeting – Worcester beat Newcastle 28-20 back in Round 4.

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, 7 Nili Latu, 6 Will Welch (c), 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Mark Wilson, 3 Taione Vea, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Callum Chick, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Craig Willis, 23 Juan Pablo Socino.

Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze (c), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jaba Bregvadze,  1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Na'ama Leleimalefaga, 18 James Johnston, 19 Dan Sanderson, 20 Sam Betty, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Andy Symons

Date: Friday, March 4
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Ashley Rowden & Robin Goodliffe.
TMO: Sean Davey.

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