Preview: Worcester v Newcastle

Date published: March 22 2012

Newcastle boss Gary Gold has made a massive seven changes for his side's Aviva Premiership clash with Worcester on Friday.

Newcastle boss Gary Gold has made a massive seven changes for his side's Aviva Premiership clash with Worcester on Friday.

Neither side have played in three weeks and will be itching to get a win under their belts as the season enters the business end.

The long break means that the Falcons welcome back a handful of players from injury. Euan Murray has shaken off a calf complaint and comes in at prop while winger Alex Tait starts for the first time since suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury last November. Centre Corne Uys also returns to action having recovered from a rib injury.

At hooker Matt Thompson replaces the suspended Rob Vickers and James Goode slots into the second row. In the back-line, Jeremy Manning comes in for Greg Goosen at full-back.

Experienced scrum-half Peter Stringer will make his debut for the Falcons following his signing from Saracens. Defence coach Mike Ford is confident that Stringer will make a big impact on the team.

“When we were talking about bringing him in we understood that to execute our game-plan then we need to get the ball into Jimmy Gopperth's hands pretty quickly,” Ford told the Falcons' official website.

“The guy has got a world class pass which is accurate and quick, and from my side of things I needed a guy who has got experience.

“He has 98 Irish caps and he knows when to fill in the defensive line, when to cover and when to kick. In the meetings and on the training field he brings so much to the table and hopefully he can show that on Friday.”

This game will be one that the struggling Falcons would have penciled in as one they could win as they strive to avoid relegation, and Ford believes they are well prepared to take on a strong Warriors outfit.

“The Worcester game is one of those where we know what is coming and we know what we have to do to beat them,” he said.

“It is certainly going to be a tight game and the referee has a crucial role to play, and hopefully he will make some good calls. We have to win the ruck and attack-wise we are going to have to speed things up.

“We have had a good three weeks preparation for this game and the boys are ready to kick-on.”

Worcester welcome back number eight Kai Horstmann and winger Marcel Garvey for the encounter, with the duo having recovered from injury.

There are two further changes to the pack, with hooker Aleki Lutui and lock James Percival coming in for Ceri Jones and Bruce Douglas respectively.

Joe Carlisle (thumb), Errie Claassens (knee), Andy Short (shoulder) and Richard Muagututia (cheek) were not considered due to injury.

Warriors chief Richard Hill is well aware of the importance of Friday's game.

“There is no getting away from the fact that the visit of Newcastle Falcons in the Aviva Premiership is a massive game for both teams,” Hill told Worcester's official website.

“Newcastle are fighting for their Aviva Premiership survival so we know it is going to be a very tough evening for us. But this is the business end of the season and the players are ready for battle.

“It has been vitally important to get the balance right between giving the players a chance to recharge the batteries for the final run-in and getting them tuned up for a game of this magnitude over the last few weeks. We feel we have got that mix right.

“We now enter the final five games of the Aviva Premiership season with plenty to play for and big aspirations to finish the season on the front foot.”

Form: Worcester Warriors' only win in their last four matches in Aviva Premiership Rugby was 16-11 at home to Saracens on 24 February. The Warriors have lost just once at Sixways in the Premiership since October: 13-32 to Leicester on 27 December. Newcastle Falcons have won just one of their last seven Premiership encounters: 19-10 at home to London Irish on 18 February, whilst their only away win this season was 34-3 at Petrarca Padova in the European Challenge Cup on 19 November. The Falcons have overcome the Warriors just once since January 2008: 14-3 at Kingston Park on 1 November 2009, whilst Newcastle have not been victorious at Sixways since winning 30-9 on 5 September 2004.

Rugby Union betting odds

<Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Marcel Garvey, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Dale Rasmussen, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Shaun Perry (c), 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Jake Abbott, 6 Sam Betty, 5 Chris Jones, 4 James Percival, 3 Tevita Taumoepeau, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 Ceri Jones, 18 Bruce Douglas, 19 Craig Gillies, 20 Blair Cowan, 21 Jonny Arr, 22 Danny Gray, 23 Ravai Fatiaki.

Newcastle: 15 Jeremy Manning ,14 Corne Uys, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Alex Tait, 10 Jimmy Gopperth (c), 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Ally Hogg 7 Will Welch, 6 Taiasina Tu'ifua, 5 James Goode, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Jonny Golding.
Replacements: 16 Joe Graham, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Ashley Wells, 19 Adriaan Fondse, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Greg Goosen, 23 Rikki Sheriffe.

Date: Friday, March 23
Kick-off: 19:45
Venue: Sixways
Referee: Sean Davey