Preview: Irish v Newcastle

Date published: April 11 2014

Gerard Ellis is one of six changes to the London Irish starting line-up against Newcastle Falcons at Madejski Stadium.

Gerard Ellis is one of six changes to the London Irish starting line-up against Newcastle Falcons at Madejski Stadium.

The Academy star will start in the back row alongside Blair Cowan and Ofisa Treviranus.

Mike Mayhew and Leo Halavatau come into the front row alongside Matt Parr and George Skivington returns to captain the side in the second row alongside Nic Rouse.

Tomás O'Leary and Shane Geraghty will start at half-back with Eamonn Sheridan returning to partner Fergus Mulchrone in the centre. Andrew Fenby, Topsy Ojo and James O'Connor make up the back three.

“We are looking forward to playing at the Madejski Stadium in front of our home supporters on Sunday,” said London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith.

“We have made a few changes to the side this week to freshen things up. The squad have applied themselves in training and are looking forward to a challenging contest with Newcastle.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle Falcons skipper Will Welch starts this Sunday.

Welch is one of four players to return from injury with centre Jamie Helleur, winger Ryan Shortland and hooker Matt Thompson all back in the fray.

Falcons boss Dean Richards has made three further changes from the side that was defeated at home to Worcester Warriors a fortnight ago. Rugby League convert Lee Smith replaces Danny Barnes at centre, while fly-half Rory Clegg gets the nod with Noah Cato switching to full-back due to Shotland's inclusion on the wing.

Thompson and loose-head Grant Shiells form a new look front-row alongside tight-head Oliver Tomaszczyk who retains his place.

“On paper London Irish have a fantastic team with Shane Geraghty and James O'Conor in their ranks,” said Newcastle director of rugby Richards.

“They are a really good team, and with Brian Smith at the helm they are very well-coached so they will be a big threat this weekend.”

“We know that we can beat them down there, and we just need to make sure that we go out there and stick to the plan and deliver a performance on the day.”

Form: The Falcons became the first team to lose to Worcester in the Aviva Premiership this season when they were beaten 12-17 at Kingston Park before the European break. The Exiles' only win in their last six Aviva Premiership matches at Madejski Stadium was 22-9 over Worcester in round 12. London Irish have slipped to four straight defeats since beating Wasps at Adams Park on 15th February. Newcastle Falcons have lost their last 12 Premiership matches since beating London Irish 13-11 at Kingston Park on 27th October. The Tynesiders have not won away from home in the tournament since a visit to Worcester in round 5. Newcastle' have won their last three matches against London Irish in all competitions but all games were played at Kingston Park. The Falcons most recent victory in Reading was 15-11 in the Premiership on 22nd November 2009.

The teams:

Irish: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Andrew Fenby, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Gerard Ellis, 6 Blair Cowan, 5 Nic Rouse, 4 George Skivington (c), 3 Leo Halavatau, 2 Mike Mayhew, 1 Matt Parr
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 John Yapp, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Ian Gough, 20 Bryn Evans, 21 Alex Lewington, 22 Myles Dorrian, 23 Darren Allinson

Newcastle: 15 Noah Cato, 14 Ryan Shortland, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 Lee Smith, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Warren Fury, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Will Welch (c), 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 Scott Macleod, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Grant Shiells
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Dom Barrow, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Mike Blair, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 James Fitzpatrick

Date: Sunday, April 13
Venue: Madejski Stadium
Kickoff: 15:00 (local, 14:00 GMT)
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant Referees: Simon McConnell and Paul Burton
TMO: Keith Lewis