Preview: Northampton Saints v Newcastle Falcons

Date published: November 24 2016

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Northampton Saints have named their team for Friday's Premiership clash with Newcastle Falcons at Franklin’s Gardens.

Tom Kessell replaces Lee Dickson at scrum-half with Michael Paterson and Ben Nutley coming into the back row. In the backline Tom Collins swaps with James Wilson, with the Kiwi named among the replacements.

Elsewhere on the bench there are returns for half-backs Nic Groom and JJ Hanrahan, the latter for the first time since August’s pre-season trip to Ulster.

Meanwhile, Newcastle Falcons have made five changes to their side with Mark Wilson skippering the team.

The fractured cheekbone suffered by Will Welch during last Friday’s match with Exeter rules out the club captain, with prop Sam Lockwood set to miss the rest of the season after rupturing his Achilles in the same game.

Rob Vickers comes in for Lockwood on the loosehead side, Sinoti Sinoti replaced on the left wing by Vereniki Goneva after damaging knee ligaments in the Kingston Park clash.

Joel Hodgson comes in at fly-half against his former club, England U20s World Cup winner Callum Chick packing down at blindside flanker.

Brett Connon and Nick Civetta could make their Premiership debuts having both been named on the bench, the latter returning from earning his first full USA cap during their recent European tour.

Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards said: “Northampton certainly tested us from an aerial point of view when they were up here last month in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

“They kicked the ball twice as much as we did, we are expecting them to utilise the boot again and they have always had a big, lumpy pack. We know Kieran Brookes will be a handful on the tighthead side but we have an equally strong front-row with the likes of Davey Wilson, Scotty Wilson, Bobby Vickers and Scott Lawson. There are lots of factors going in our favour and we are really looking forward to it.

“Northampton are a good team who play a good brand of rugby, and we will not be complacent. In Stephen Myler they have a kicker with a reasonable boot on him, but it’s not their only strength. We have evaluated where to attack, where we feel they can be exploited and we will take it to them on the night.”

Meanwhile, 

Form: Northampton Saints have won their last four matches in all tournaments since tripping up at Castres in the European Champions Cup on 22 October. The Saints have not been defeated at Franklin’s Gardens since Wasps were the visitors in Round 4 of the Premiership. Newcastle Falcons have slipped to defeat in their last four first team fixtures since beating Grenoble 50-7 at Kingston Park in the European Challenge Cup a month ago. The Falcons solitary away victory in their last 26 such fixtures since February 2015 was 18-13 at Gloucester on 24 September. The two clubs have already met in the Anglo-Welsh Cup this season with Saints running out 24-16 victors at Kingston Park three weeks ago. Newcastle won their most recent encounter with Northampton in the Premiership by a single point in February to end an eleven game losing run to that opponent in the tournament. 

The teams:

Northampton Saints: 

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Michael Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Mark Wilson (c), 6 Callum Chick, 5 Will Witty, 4 Calum Green, 3 David Wilson, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Nick Civetta, 20 Opeti Fonua, 21 Sam Egerton, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Fred Burdon

Date: Friday, 25 November
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell, Jonathan Healy
TMO: David Sainsbury

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