Finn Russell back for Bath’s run-in while George Ford and Handre Pollard to face off

Adam Kyriacou
Bath's Finn Russell (centre) in action during a Gallagher Premiership match.

Bath's Finn Russell (centre) in action during a Gallagher Premiership match.

The penultimate round of the Premiership regular season kicks off with two games on Friday as Newcastle Falcons face Bath and Sale Sharks host Leicester Tigers.

Newcastle Falcons v Bath

Newcastle Falcons consultant director of rugby Steve Diamond has made three changes to his team for their clash with third-placed Bath at Kingston Park.

Full-back Louis Brown, lock Tim Cardall and centre Cameron Hutchison all come in as starters as the Falcons play their final home game of the campaign.

Brown is joined by Adam Radwan and Ben Redshaw in the back three while Hutchison will link up with Argentina centre Matias Moroni in the midfield.

Sam Stuart and Brett Connon are the half-backs as Newcastle hunt their first win of the Premiership season, having lost all 16 fixtures so far this campaign.

Up front it’s Adam Brocklebank and Eduardo Bello propping either side of hooker Jamie Blamire while Cardall is joined by Sebastian de Chaves at lock.

The starting team is completed by Sam Cross, Guy Pepper and captain Callum Chick in the back-row.

Meanwhile, Bath have made two changes to their pack from their most recent run out against Saracens as Tom Dunn and Thomas du Toit will start, moving Niall Annett and Will Stuart to the bench.

Beno Obano is named at loosehead retaining his jersey for his sixth consecutive start since the international window.

Partnering in the second-row, Quinn Roux and Charlie Ewels retain their positions from a fortnight ago.

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Johann van Graan also names an unchanged back-row in the form of Ted Hill, Sam Underhill and Alfie Barbeary.

Partnering at half-back, Ben Spencer is joined by Finn Russell who returns from a groin injury picked up during the Investec Champions Cup Round of 16.

Across the backline, Will Muir and Joe Cokanasiga keep a stronghold of their respective wings.

Cameron Redpath comes into the starting selection, accompanied by Ollie Lawrence in the midfield, with Matt Gallagher completing the starting XV.

Joining Annett and Stuart on the bench, Juan Schoeman is named as replacement loosehead.

Jacques du Plessis, Miles Reid and Josh Bayliss complete the replacement forwards in a 6-2 bench split.

Louis Schreuder and Orlando Bailey are named as replacement backs.

The teams

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Louis Brown, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Cameron Hutchison, 11 Ben Redshaw, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Sam Stuart, 8 Callum Chick (c), 7 Guy Pepper, 6 Sam Cross, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 Tim Cardall, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Jamie Blamire, 1 Adam Brocklebank
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Mark Dormer, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 John Hawkins, 20 Freddie Lockwood, 21 James Elliott, 22 Rory Jennings, 23 Oli Spencer

Bath: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Will Muir, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ben Spencer (c), 8 Alfie Barbeary, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 Miles Reid, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Josh Bayliss

Venue: Kingston Park
Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Sara Cox, Hamish Smales
TMO: Dean Richards

Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers

Scrum-half Gus Warr returns to Sale‘s starting line-up while Sam James replaces the injured Joe Carpenter at full-back for the Sharks final home game of the season.

Boss Alex Sanderson makes a total of four changes to his side from the win against Newcastle, with Tom O’Flaherty replacing Arron Reed on the wing and Hyron Andrews making his first Sharks start in the second-row. There’s also a return to the matchday squad for Ernst van Rhyn.

Sanderson has picked an all-homegrown front-row to face the Tigers with Bevan Rodd and James Harper packing down either side of Tommy Taylor, who will make his 150th Sharks appearance.

In the second-row, Cobus Wiese, who is making his final league appearance at the Salford Stadium before returning to South Africa, teams up with countryman Andrews for the first time from the start, while the back-row is unchanged with Sam Dugdale and captain Ben Curry flanking Jean-Luc du Preez at number eight.

Scrum-half Warr joins George Ford at half-back and they’ll have Manu Tuilagi and Rob du Preez outside them in the centres. Wingers O’Flaherty and Tom Roebuck and full-back James, who announced this week that he will leave the club in the summer, make up the rest of the XV.

On the replacements bench, hooker Agustin Creevy is joined by props Si McIntyre and WillGriff John. Ben Bamber and Van Rhyn make up the rest of the forwards replacements, while Raffi Quirke, Rekeiti Ma’asi White and Reed will cover the backs.

Meanwhile, Leicester Tigers have named Hanro Liebenberg as captain from blindside flanker with skipper Julián Montoya ruled out through injury.

Charlie Clare joins Francois van Wyk and Dan Cole in a changed Tigers front-row with Harry Wells and George Martin starting in the second-row.

The one change to Tigers backline sees Jamie Shillcock start on the wing with Solomone Kata returning from suspension to take his place in the reserves.

There’s also a place for tighthead Joe Heyes who has completed his return from injury while hooker Nic Dolly will make his first appearance for the club since the return fixture against Sale in October.

Plenty of the focus on Friday’s game will centre on the battle at fly-half between England international George Ford and Springboks star Handre Pollard.

The teams

Sale Sharks: 15 Sam James, 14 Tom Roebuck, 13 Rob du Preez, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 George Ford, 9 Gus Warr, 8 JL du Preez, 7 Sam Dugdale, 6 Ben Curry (c), 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 James Harper, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Bevan Rodd
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Si McIntyre, 18 WillGriff John, 19 Ben Bamber, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Raffi Quirke, 22 Rekeiti Ma’asi White, 23 Arron Reed

Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Jamie Shillcock, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Jack van Poortvliet, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 5 Harry Wells, 4 George Martin, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Charlie Clare, 1 Francois van Wyk
Replacements: 16 Nic Dolly, 17 James Whitcombe, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Finn Carnduff, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Phil Cokanasiga, 23 Solomone Kata

Venue: Salford Community Stadium
Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace, Jamie Leahy
TMO: Ian Tempest

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