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Preview: Newcastle v Sale

29th March 2012 12:07

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Richie Vernon

Starting: Richie Vernon

Sale have promoted Johnny Leota and Richie Vernon to their starting XV for the Aviva Premiership clash with Newcastle at Kingston Park on Friday.

The same 23 are on duty as last week, with Leota and Vernon coming into the line-up. Luther Burrell and Mark Easter revert to the bench.

"It's a huge game for us. Falcons may be fighting for their lives but we have got to go there and fight for our reputations," said CEO Steve Diamond.

"It's a key game for us in terms of trying to get into the Heineken Cup and, first and foremost, we've got to get some credibility back into our defence.

"Friday will be a big challenge for us and maybe on the outside people will have Newcastle down as favourites, so we have to respond in kind."

Meanwhile, Newcastle have made two changes for the Aviva Premiership clash as Rob Vickers returns at hooker following suspension while Tom Bedford replaces Alex Tait on the wing, who is out for the rest of the season with a broken cheekbone.

Victory for the Falcons would make it five games unbeaten on home soil and close the gap on London Wasps to just four points at the foot of the Premiership tree.

"For me it is an exciting challenge fighting for survival especially for the fans who come to Kingston Park week in, week out and we will be doing everything to secure Premiership rugby for the North East," said Falcons director of rugby Gary Gold.

"Our destiny is not in our hands because if the teams above us win this weekend then obviously we will still be in the same situation.

"But it is time for the boys to express themselves and these challenges should be seen as exciting - we have said to the players that is going to be a real test of character and if this team can fight for their lives who knows what could happen," added Gold.

Sale make the trip across the Pennines on the back of last week's 45-9 home defeat to title-chasing Saracens, but Gold is under no illusions about the task in hand.

"This is obviously a very important game for the club and we need to pitch up at home as Sale will be a tough proposition," he said.

"We have had some good times at home since I arrived and we need to build on that momentum - morale is very good at the moment."

Form: Newcastle Falcons have won just one of their last six matches in all competitions: 19-10 at home to London Irish on 18 February. The Falcons are unbeaten in their last four games at Kingston Park, since Exeter won there, 16-10, on 7 January. Sale Sharks have slipped to back to back defeats to Exeter and Saracens. Sharks' only away victory in Aviva Premiership Rugby since round three was 16-13 at Bath on 3 December. Sale took the Premiership encounter with Newcastle on 26 December, but Newcastle exacted revenge in the Anglo-Welsh Cup meeting at Kingston Park on 29 January. The Sharks have never achieved a league double over the Falcons in the same season. David Rose becomes only the 8th referee to take charge of 100 Premiership matches.

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Jeremy Manning, 14 Corne Uys, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Tom Bedford, 10 Jimmy Gopperth (capt), 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch, 6 Taiasina Tu'ifua, 5 James Goode, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Rob Vickers, 1 Jonny Golding.
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 James Hall, 19 James Hudson, 20 Adam Balding, 21 Mark Wilson, 22 Will Chudley, 23 Greg Goosen.

Sale Sharks: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou (capt), 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Andy Powell, 7 David Seymour, 6 Richie Vernon, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Kearnan Myall, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Joe Ward, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Vadim Cobilas, 19 Tom Holmes, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Cillian Willis, 22 Luther Burrell, 23 Will Addison.

Date: Friday, March 30
Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Venue: Kingston Park
Referee: David Rose
Assistant referees: Don Helme Alan Hughes
Television match official: David Hudson

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