Planet Rugby

Preview: Newcastle v London Irish

25th October 2013 12:40

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Newcastle Falcons player Danny Barnes in action during Falcons training

Starting for Newcastle: Danny Barnes

Danny Barnes starts at centre as one of seven changes to Newcastle's team to face London Irish at Kingston Park on Sunday.

24-year-old Barnes, joined the Falcons from Munster during the offseason, but an elbow injury sustained in the 15-14 victory at Sale Sharks in September put paid to the start of his season.

Now the former Ireland Under-20s player has been handed a starting berth alongside Adam Powell at the heart of the Falcons backline.

There are seven changes to the side that played in Brive last weekend as the Falcons look to make it back-to-back wins in the Premiership following their 16-11 triumph at Worcester Warriors earlier this month.

Full-back Alex Tait returns after recovering from a virus, while Tom Catterick replaces Sean Brown on the wing. Meanwhile, Rory Clegg and Mike Blair form the half-back combination, a partnership that has earned the latter a place in Opta's Team of the Season so far.

In the pack there are two changes, with the experienced heads of Italian international Carlo del Fava and stand in skipper Ally Hogg getting the nod.

Club captain Will Welch is amongst the replacements and is set to make his 100th appearance for the Falcons this weekend.

"London Irish will bring something different to proceedings, something that we haven't seen from any other team so far this season," said Head coach Peter Russell.

"They have the ability to move the ball across the field and exploit space very quickly - they also have tenacity around the pitch, and they're certainly an aggressive team.

"It's going to be a real battle out there on Sunday."

Meanwhile, Chris Hala'ufia returns to the London Irish back row.

John Yapp, David Paice and Leo Halavatau will start in the front row with captain, George Skivington and Ian Gough in the second row. Hala'ufia will play alongside Samoa International Ofisa Treviranus and Blair Cowan, who was recently called into the Scotland training squad for the November Internationals.

Tomás O'Leary and Ian Humphreys are named in the halves with Eamonn Sheridan and Fergus Mulchrone forming the centre partnership. Alex Lewington, Sailosi Tagicakibau and Topsy Ojo make up the back three.

"We've had a good couple of weeks in Europe and have prepared well this week for a challenging trip to Newcastle," said Exiles Director of Rugby Brian Smith.

"Dean and John Wells have assembled a strong squad and will be very tough in their own back yard. We are looking forward to the contest."

Form: Newcastle Falcons won their most recent Aviva Premiership Rugby fixture, 16-11 at Worcester on 5th October, a second victory in the tournament since they were promoted at the end of last season. The Tynesiders have lost their last three Premiership encounters played at Kingston Park, since they beat Sale Sharks there, 22-19, in March 2012. London Irish have recorded three straight victories in all competitions against Harlequins, Italian side Prato and Portuguese outfit Lucitanos. The Exiles only victory away from home in their last six trips in the Premiership was 20-18 at Worcester in round 2. Newcastle's 19-10 win in February 2012 was their first over London Irish in six encounters. The Irishmen's only victory at Kingston Park since 2008 was 46-12 in the Premiership in September 2010.

The teams:

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Tom Catterick, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Ally Hogg (c), 7 Mark Wilson, 6 Dom Barrow, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 Carlo del Fava, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Scott MacLeod, 20 Will Welch, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Phil Godman, 23 James Fitzpatrick

London Irish: 15 Topsy Ojo, 14 Alex Lewington, 13Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Chris Hala'ufia 7 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Ian Gough, 6 Blair Cowan, 4 George Skivington (Captain), 3 Leo Halavatau, 2 David Paice, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Mike Mayhew, 17 Matt Parr, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19Bryn Evans, 20 Jebb Sinclair, 21 Guy Armitage, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Darren Allinson

Date: Sunday, October 27th
Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 15:00 (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce, Gordon Goodliffe
TMO: Keith Lewis

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