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Preview: Newcastle v Northampton

21st February 2014 10:55

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ally hogg newcastle

Ally Hogg: At eight for Falcons

Newcastle boss Dean Richards has made three changes to his side for Sunday's Premiership clash with Northampton at Kingston Park.

Scotland hooker Scott Lawson, who starts tomorrow's Six Nations showdown against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico, is replaced by Matt Thompson, while Oliver Tomaszczyk comes in for Kieran Brookes at tighthead.

Ally Hogg returns at number eight as part of a reshuffled back-row which sees Mark Wilson move to blindside flanker and skipper Will Welch to openside. Andy Saull is ruled out through injury.

"It's great to be returning to Kingston Park for Aviva Premiership Rugby again, and I'm looking forward to the challenge that Northampton will bring," said Richards.

"We have a big fortnight ahead of us with back-to-back home matches against Northampton and Leicester Tigers, and it will be a big test for the lads.

"We have acquitted ourselves well in the last couple of weeks at Bath Rugby and Harlequins, and we have been very competitive in both games so we know that we can do it.

"It's just a case of going out there against Northampton and showing what we are capable of."

Meanwhile, Kahn Fotuali'i and Christian Day both return into Saints' starting line-up for this clash.

Scrum-half Fotuali'i comes in for Lee Dickson, who is on England's bench on Saturday, while second row Day has recovered from the leg injury which kept him out of last weekend's win over Worcester.

England U20 centre Tom Stephenson continues his midfield partnership with George Pisi, while Day's return means a move back to number eight for Sam Dickinson.

GJ Van Velze drops to the bench, where he is joined by Junior World Championship winning scrum-half Alex Day, fly-half Glenn Dickson, and full-back Ben Foden, who could see his first Aviva Premiership action since the Round eight clash against the same opponents last November.

Form: Newcastle Falcons have lost their last eight Premiership matches and picked up just two losing bonus point in that sequence. The Falcons have won their two most recent home games in all tournaments, against Bucharest Wolves and Newport Gwent Dragons.Northampton Saints top the table and have not been defeated in the Premiership since their round 3 visit to Gloucester. The Saints have won their last eight away games in all tournaments since tripping up in Castres in the European Cup in October. Northampton have won their last seven encounters with Newcastle since The Falcons trip to Franklin's Gardens in February 2009.

The teams:

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 Scott MacLeod, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Adam Powell.

Northampton Saints: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom STtephenson, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Phil Dowson (c), 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 GJ van Velze, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Alex Day, 22 Glenn Dickson, 23 Ben Foden.

Date: Sunday 23rd February
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 1500 (local and GMT)
Referee: Andrew Small (Eng)
Assistant referees: Robin Goodliffe, Ashley Rowden (both Eng)
TMO: Trevor Fisher (Eng)

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1Exeter828
2Bath828
3Northampton726
4Saracens724
5Wasps820