Newcastle Falcons have made just two changes for Friday's Guinness Premiership visit of London Wasps to Kingston Park (kick-off 8pm).Flanker Ed Williamson resumes his place on the blindside after recovering from shoulder trouble, taking over from Tim Swinson as James Grindal starts at scrum half in the only other change to the team which faced Worcester last Friday.
Fullback Steve Jones starts the game despite leaving the field just 20 minutes in to the Worcester match with a knee injury, having made a remarkable recovery during the week.
In the week that Newcastle chairman Dave Thompson clarified the situation regardng ownership of the Falcons, director of rugby Steve Bates has spoke of the stabilising effect on the squad in the wake of the announcement that there will be no takeover.
“The last couple of months have not been easy with a lot of speculation flying around, but now everybody knows where they stand and we can look ahead without the distraction of any uncertainty from an off-field perspective,” he said.
“It already seems to have had a bit of a settling effect on the squad, the players look to have lifted and they appear a lot more confident going in to Friday's game. They can concentrate totally on rugby matters without any more speculation regarding behind-the-scenes stuff, and only time will tell whether or not that has a beneficial impact in terms of performance.”
Turning attention to Friday's crunch tie against a Wasps side one place below the Falcons in the Guinness Premiership table, Bates said: “To see Wasps where they are right now is a bit of a surprise to everybody, not least to themselves I would imagine, but we know they will be coming up here with a very focused view about the opportunity to win.
“From our own point of view the feedback I'm getting from the players is that they're in good shape, they know what's coming but they're ready to meet that challenge.
“We know it will be tough against a very fired-up Wasps team with a load of international players, but generally this week is perceived to have been a positive move for the club, and I think that will be reflected by what we see out on the pitch.
“The spirit among the players is excellent, the effort last week against Worcester was there if not the result, and these are all things we can build on against what is a very strong Wasps team on paper packed with international quality players. Even with their large England contingent away they still have household names throughout, and the task for us is to take the battle to them right from the very start.”
Tickets for Friday's game are still available by calling 0871 226 60 60, or from Kingston Park in person.
Newcastle Falcons team to face London Wasps:
15 Steve Jones
14 Danny Williams
13 Tom May
12 Tane Tu'ipulotu
11 John Rudd
10 Rory Clegg
9 James Grindal
1 Jon Golding
2 Matt Thompson
3 David Wilson
4 Geoff Parling
5 Mark Sorenson
6 Ed Williamson
7 Brent Wilson
8 Phil Dowson (captain)
Not considered due to injury: Joe Shaw (knee), Joe McDonnell (neck), Andy Buist, Jonny Wilkinson (knee), Alex Tait (ankle), Carl Hayman (knee), Russell Winter (hamstring), Adam Balding (knee), Rob Miller (ankle), Ross Beattie (ankle).