Planet Rugby

Preview: Newcastle v Gloucester

30th October 2008 15:20

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Tane Tuipulotu

Staying warm: Tane Tu'ipulotu on bench up north

New signing Tane Tu'ipulotu is in line for his Newcastle debut on Sunday, having been named on the bench for their EDF Energy Cup clash with Gloucester at Kingston Park.

The Tongan centre only arrived on Tyneside on Thursday lunchtime, but pending registration issues and jet-lag the two-time Ranfurly Shield winner will line up among the replacements in the final round of Pool matches.

"Tane only landed in the country today, but he came to the training ground straight from the airport before even dropping his luggage off," said Director of Rugby, Steve Bates.

"That says a lot to me about him as a person and his commitment to this club. He is definitely keen to play; there are just a few issues we need to iron out in terms of his registration first, because we couldn't start that registration process until he physically arrived in the country.

"On top of that we need to monitor him closely from a physical standpoint to make sure the effects of jet lag don't put him at any additional risk, but his attitude upon arriving here today suggests to me that he wants to get straight in."

Despite the Falcons having already been knocked out of the EDF Energy Cup, Bates has selected a strong side and insists there is still plenty to play for.

"Ahead of the November Premiership games, Sunday represents a great chance for us to look at certain combinations, and improve our play in some key areas which have not been as efficient as we would have liked throughout September and October," he continued.

"Gloucester have a lot of injuries and some EPS commitments which might affect their team selection, although we were obviously disappointed to hear that Olly Barkley has been released from the England squad because he could well be a very significant player for them.

"They are going for the win which would book them a place in the semi-finals of this competition, but we are certainly not treating this like a dead rubber and will be going flat out to match them upfront to provide a good platform for us."

Meanwhile, fly-half Ryan Lamb will return for the visitors. The 22-year-old missed Gloucester's 25-20 victory over the Dragons last Saturday because of a pelvic injured picked up during their Heineken Cup defeat against Cardiff a fortnight ago and is one of six changes to the team named last weekend.

Lamb will feature in an all-new half-back combination with Gareth Cooper after a rib injured ruled out Rory Lawson. Willie Walker, who started at ten against the Dragons, moves to full-back in place of Iain Balshaw, who in turn replaces Mark Foster on the wing.

Up front, there is a welcome return for loose-head prop Nick Wood, whose last performance was against the Falcons in the Guinness Premiership at the end of September. He has not featured since because of a groin strain.

Andy Titterrell makes his first start since the first game of the season against Leicester at hooker and will complete a front row alongside Carlos Nieto.

In the second row, Alex Brown returns from a foot injury and replaces Marco Bortolami, who drops to the bench following six successive starts. Brown missed the victory over the Dragons and will partner Adam Eustace.

The back row of Peter Buxton, Andy Hazell and Alasdair Strokosch remains intact.

The midfield combination of skipper Mike Tindall and Olly Barkley is also unchanged, while Lesley Vainikolo completes the back three alongside Balshaw, who has scored six tries in his last four appearances and Walker, who scored a try and landed three penalties and a conversion in the first round of the EDF Energy Cup against Wasps.

"In a lot of ways we are probably working harder on aspects of our game than we did last year," said head coach Dean Ryan.

"We have become better at certain things but maybe not felt the benefit of them. It's important we don't lose sight of that because we are a good side that is looking for the right balance to become successful over the long term.

"We haven't played as well as we would have liked and we recognise that fact but the positive thing from our point of view is that we can get better.

"There are obviously some injuries in and around the squad but we have a good side available to us."

Form: Newcastle's only win in their last five games was 63-0 at home to Spanish side El Salvador in the European Challenge Cup on October 11. The Falcons have lost their last three games in the EDF Energy Cup. Gloucester have won four of their last five games in all competitions. Gloucester have lost their last two away matches since a 21-17 win at Bath on 13 September. Newcastle's only win over Gloucester in their last twelve encounters since 2003 was 19-12 at Kingston Park in the Premiership on 13 April 2007.

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Steve Jones, 14 Danny Williams, 13 Tom May, 12 Spencer Davey, 11 John Rudd, 10 Rob Miller, 9 Hall Charlton, 8 Phil Dowson (captain), 7 Brent Wilson, 6 Ed Williamson, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Micky Ward, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Joe McDonnell.

Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Jon Golding, 18 Andy Perry, 19 Russell Winter, 20 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 21 Micky Young, 22 Rory Clegg.

Gloucester: 15 Willie Walker, 14 Iain Balshaw, 13 Mike Tindall (c), 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Lesley Vainikolo, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Alasdair Strokosch, 7 Andy Hazell, 6 Peter Buxton, 5 Alex Brown, 4 Adam Eustace, 3 Carlos Nieto,2 Andy Titterrell, 1 Nick Wood.

Replacements: 16 Olivier Azam, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Marco Bortolami, 19 Apo Satala, 20 Dave Lewis, 21 Jack Adams, 22 Charlie Sharples.

Date: Sunday, November 2

Venue: Kingston Park

Kick-off: 16:00 (15:00 BST)

Referee: Sean Davey (England)

Touch judges: Alan Hughes (England), Paul Emerson

Assessor: Brian Campsall (England)

Television match official: Trevor Parlett (England)

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