Preview: Wasps v Newcastle

Date published: February 5 2016

Wasps’ director of rugby Dai Young has made two changes to his starting XV for Saturday's clash with Newcastle Falcons at the Ricoh Arena.

Christian Wade makes a welcome return to Wasps’ back line after a three-month injury lay-off, while Thomas Young comes in at openside with George Smith available to provide reinforcement from the bench.

Wasps’ co-captain Matt Mullan is named among the replacements having returned from England camp and new signing Siale Piutau, elder brother of Charles, is in line to make his Wasps’ debut this weekend.

“Last week, the squad produced a great performance against Northampton Saints, but we know we need to back it up this weekend or that win won’t count for anything," said Young. 

"We are working hard to produce consistency in our performances to build momentum.

“Newcastle are always tough opponents and will arrive at the Ricoh Arena full of confidence after their win against Harlequins last week so we will need to be on our game.”

Meanwhile, Andy Goode will make his first Aviva Premiership start for Newcastle Falcons at fly-half this weekend.

Goode, who joined the Falcons on a three month contract over Christmas, showed every bit of his 231 matches worth of Premiership experience last weekend, as he combined with his team mates to engineer a memorable 26-19 win over Harlequins.

His promotion from the bench to the starting XV is the only change to the team that started at Kingston Park last Sunday, with the Falcons coaching team opting for a settled line up for the team’s first visit to Wasps new home.

This selection sees Michael Young continue outside of Goode in the scrum-half shirt, while Adam Powell and Juan Pablo Socino provide the centre pairing.

Working alongside and complimenting these combinations is a back three of Alex Tait, Giamba Venditti and Simon Hammersley which provides an array of attacking options and defensive strength.

An unchanged forward pack sees internationals Scott Lawson, Taione Vea, Nili Latu and Ally Hogg continue alongside talents nurtured in the North East Rob Vickers, Mark Wilson, Sean Robinson and Will Welch.

On the bench, George McGuigan and Paddy Ryan continue as front row cover and are joined by Alex Rogers coming into the side in place of Eric Fry, who is away on Americas Rugby Championship duty with the USA.

In the only other change to the replacement line up, the number 23 shirt is taken over by Marcus Watson, who will be keen for further Premiership action after being a lively, try scoring presence in his last outing against London Irish in January.

Form: Wasps have won their last two Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters, at home to Worcester and at Northampton, but have not won three in a row in the tournament since New Year 2015. Wasps record at Ricoh Arena in Premiership rugby this season is won three, lost two. Newcastle Falcons climbed off the foot of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table courtesy of a second victory in the last three rounds, at home to Harlequins on Sunday. The Tynesiders have not won away from home since a visit to London Irish in the Anglo-Welsh Cup last February whilst in Premiership Rugby their only away win since October 2013 came at London Welsh in October 2014. Wasps are unbeaten in their last four encounters with Newcastle since Falcons 14-10 win at Adams Park in May 2012. This is Newcastle’s first visit to Ricoh Arena – their last visit to the city of Coventry being in November 1996 for a Division 2 clash which Coventry RFC won 19-18 at the old Coundon Road.

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 James Downey, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth (c), 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Alex Rieder, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 James Gaskell, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Edd Shervington, 1 Simon McIntyre. 
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 James Cannon, 20 George Smith, 21 Jamie Stevenson, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Siale Piutau

Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Michael Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Nili Latu, 6 Will Welch (c), 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Mark Wilson, 3 Taione Vea, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers. 
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Richard Mayhew, Sonatane Takulua, 22 Craig Willis, 23 Marcus Watson

Date: Saturday, February 6
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Gareth Copsey, Andy Watson
TMO: Keith Lewis