Scott Lawson comes in at hooker

Team news: One change for Sale trip

Thursday 7 September 2017

Newcastle Falcons have made just one change to their side for Friday’s Aviva Premiership trip to Sale Sharks (kick-off 7.45pm), with Scott Lawson coming in at hooker.

The experienced Scot replaces Kyle Cooper in the only switch from the side which defeated Worcester Warriors 35-8 last Friday, man of the match Cooper missing out with a shoulder injury.

On the bench last season’s top try-scorer Vereniki Goneva could be in line for a return after missing the season-opener with a calf problem, director of rugby Dean Richards keen for his side to build on their promising start to the campaign.

He said: “I thought the boys played well against Worcester and we were delighted with five points. We showed discipline, we stuck to our task and the players responded to what we asked of them. We didn’t actually change much in terms of what we did as a team – we just did it more effectively.

“The good thing was that we did all this with just one of our new signings [Josh Matavesi] in the starting side, so it shows the quality we have in the group before we even start to look at injecting more of the new guys into the team. Their sheer presence here has raised the quality of performance of the other boys, and you could see the difference.”

Determined for the bonus-point victory to be a springboard for further victories, Richards said: “We know Friday will be a tough game against a good Sale side. Their director of rugby Steve Diamond has made a big point of saying they want to go unbeaten all season at home, and every club which visits them will now be taking that comment as a target to knock them off that perch.

“They are a good side with key individuals in key areas, and we know what they’ll bring to the table. It will be a different game to last weekend, Sale will be massively up for it with being the home side and it should be a good contest.”

Asked about the absence of a number of his summer signings, Richards explained: “They’re not far off. Toby Flood (hamstring) will be another week or two and DTH van der Merwe (knee) has put in a full week’s training this week, so he should be available next week against Saracens. The new lads as a group have gone really well, they’ve raised the standards and the squad as a whole have responded in kind.”

The only off-season acquisition to be included in the starting line-up is Fijian international Josh Matavesi, who is keen for his side to kick on from last week’s opening-night triumph. He said: “It was good to get the win against a niggly Worcester side, but it’s all about Sale now and how we can move on as a team.

“Backing up is the key for us if we want to really improve and achieve something. It’s all well and good beating Worcester but it means nothing if we go to Sale and get 30 points put on us. It’s about having a ruthless mind-set where we focus on doing our jobs right, and let Sale worry about us rather than the other way round.

“We’ve done our homework on them and we know they’re a strong side, but we back our game plan to come to fruition. It’ll be a tough game because Sale away on a Friday is not easy. The ground is pretty open, it looks like rain is forecast but we have the ability to deal with that. We’re professional, and it’s about turning over every stone in our preparation. Do that and the rest takes care of itself.”

Prop Rob Vickers lines up for the Falcons for the 234th time, and in the week he was awarded a testimonial year by the club the prolific front-row man said: “Although the end result was good against Worcester we know it’s only a one-off, and we start from scratch at Sale on Friday.

“It’s a new game against a new team, and we have to perform well and be on our game to stand any chance of winning. They’ve got good players, a big front row and their set-piece is something they pride themselves on.

“We believe in the work we’re doing and the team we’ve got, and that’s really key. It’s not just about the new players who’ve signed for us, it’s also the lads who were here last season and the depth we now have. You have to be playing well to get a game here because they’re always someone behind you ready to step into your place.

“It takes a lot of work on the training ground and a lot of concentration, and if you have one or two players who don’t understand their roles it impacts on the performance quite significantly. Last Friday we were reasonably successful, but this week is a new challenge.”

Newcastle Falcons team to play Sale Sharks (Friday, 7.45pm, AJ Bell Stadium, live on BT Sport)

15 Simon Hammersley

14 Alex Tait

13 Chris Harris

12 Josh Matavesi

11 Belisario Agulla

10 Joel Hodgson

9 Sonatane Takulua

1 Rob Vickers

2 Scott Lawson

3 Jon Welsh

4 Calum Green

5 Will Witty

6 Mark Wilson

7 Will Welch (captain)

8 Callum Chick

Replacements

16 Santiago Socino

17 Sami Mavinga

18 Trevor Davison

19 Sean Robinson

20 Nili Latu

21 Sam Stuart

22 Juan Pablo Socino

23 Vereniki Goneva

Sale Sharks

15 Mike Haley

14 Denny Solomona

13 Will Addison (captain)

12 Mark Jennings

11 Byron McGuigan

10 AJ MacGinty

9 Faf de Klerk

1 Ross Harrison

2 Cameron Neild

3 Alex Tarus

4 Josh Beaumont

5 Andre Ostrikov

6 Jono Ross

7 Tom Curry

8 Josh Strauss

Replacements

16 Marc Jones

17 James Flynn

18 WillGriff John

19 George Nott

20 Ben Curry

21 TJ Ioane

22 Will Cliff

23 Sam James

Referee: Andrew Jackson

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