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Preview: Harlequins v Newcastle

14th February 2014 07:43

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Ben Botica Harlequins AVP 2013

In at ten: Ben Botica

Harlequins have made three changes to the starting side which beat London Wasps last weekend to face Newcastle Falcons.

Tom Casson is named at outside centre, partnering Jordan Turner-Hall.

The back-three combination of Ugo Monye, Sam Smith and Ollie Lindsay-Hague remains unchanged while Ben Botica starts at fly-half in place of Nick Evans who picked up a foot injury last week.

In the forwards, the front five remain unchanged, while Luke Wallace starts at openside flanker and Maurie Fa'asavalu switces to the blindside. Number eight Nick Easter captains the side.

Among the replacements, Louis Grimoldby will look to make his first Aviva Premiership appearance for the club.

Meanwhile, Scott Lawson returns at hooker for Newcastle exactly a week after winning his 40th cap for Scotland against England in the Calcutta Cup.

The experienced front-rower, 32, is one of five changes to the side that took on Bath last weekend with fellow Scot Mike Blair starting for the first time since the turn of the year when Sale Sharks were the visitors to Kingston Park.

Blair, the most capped Scotland scrum-half of all time, partners former Quins man Rory Clegg at half-back, while Ryan Shortland gets the nod on the wing in place of Sinoti Sinoti who is sidelined with an ankle injury.

Upfront the aforementioned Lawson brings experience to proceedings and will pack down with England Saxon Kieran Brookes in the front row, with the latter impressing from the bench during his side's last outing at Bath.

Former Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats flyer Lee Smith and on-loan Munster second-row Ian Nagle will have to wait for their chance to shine, with director of rugby Dean Richards giving the duo time to settle in on Tyneside.

Looking for his side to bounce back from their 24-6 defeat to Bath at The Rec, head coach Peter Russell said: "They are a spritely sort of side and they like to move the ball around and hold onto it for long periods.

"We have to try and nullify that by bringing the kind of defensive game we showed down at Bath.

"We know that we can play, we just need to be doing it in the right areas of the field."

Form: The Falcons have slipped to seven straight Aviva Premiership defeats and are 11th in the table - ten points above bottom side Worcester Warriors. Newcastle's only two away victories in the competition this season came at Sale Sharks and Worcester, while their only victory in their last eight Aviva Premiership fixtures against Harlequins was 33-18 at Kingston Park in March 2011. Harlequins' last four matches in the Aviva Premiership have all been won by the home side, while their only defeat in their last six home games was 13-16 to Clermont Auvergne in the European Cup on January 11.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 14 Sam Smith, 13 Tom Casson, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Paul Doran Jones, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tom Guest, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Louis Grimoldby, 23 Paul Sackey

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

Date: Saturday, February 15
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Andrew Pearce, Luke Pearce
Television match official: Graham Hughes

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