Team news: Goneva returns to face Saracens

Friday 15 September 2017

Newcastle Falcons welcome back last season’s top try-scorer Vereniki Goneva as they prepare to face Saracens in the American city of Philadelphia on Saturday.

The Fijian try machine comes into the team in one of three changes from the side which defeated Sale Sharks last weekend, Newcastle having won both of their opening Aviva Premiership games ahead of their encounter at Talen Energy Stadium, home of Major League Soccer side Philadelphia Union.

The only other two changes from last weekend see Sean Robinson replace Will Witty and Nili Latu come in for Callum Chick, head coach Dave Walder confident his side can rise to the challenge after moving the fixture across the Atlantic.

“We were already a close squad but living in each other’s pockets for the full week does get you closer, and we’ve been looked after brilliantly,” said the former England fly-half.

“The game on Saturday is obviously the big focus but it has been an old-fashioned tour in the sense that the guys have enjoyed themselves, taken in some new experiences and just enjoyed being out here.

“We’ve been training at the University of Pennsylvania and the facilities have been great, so there can certainly be no excuses from that point of view. We’re here to win a big Aviva Premiership game and we believe we can achieve that.”

Falcons players have enjoyed a full week training in Philadelphia, Walder stating: “Everyone has been very open-minded about it in terms of the local population, and when we’ve been walking around in our Falcons kit they’re keen to know more about the game and what we’re doing over here.

“They’ve been very respectful towards us, the atmosphere has been great and people have been asking us lots of questions. In my personal opinion we’d have been foolish to turn down this invitation, and seeing the enjoyment the guys are getting out of the experience is fantastic. Obviously the game is the main thing, and I’m confident we’re in a good place to put in a big performance.

“This is the first time in a while we’ve played Saracens towards the start of the season, and we hope all their big internationals play. It’ll be good to test ourselves against them and see where we’re at.”

Tickets for Saturday’s game are available by clicking here.

Newcastle Falcons team to face Saracens

15 Simon Hammersley

14 Alex Tait

13 Chris Harris

12 Josh Matavesi

11 Vereniki Goneva

10 Joel Hodgson

9 Sonatane Takulua

1 Rob Vickers

2 Scott Lawson

3 Jon Welsh

4 Calum Green

5 Sean Robinson

6 Mark Wilson

7 Will Welch (captain)

8 Nili Latu

Replacements

16 Santiago Socino

17 Sami Mavinga

18 Trevor Davison

19 Will Witty

20 Ally Hogg

21 Sam Stuart

22 Juan Pablo Socino

23 Sinoti Sinoti

Referee: JP Doyle

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