Scott Lawson returns at hooker for tomorrow’s Aviva Premiership trip to Harlequins (kick-off 3pm) exactly a week after winning his 40th cap for Scotland against England in the Calcutta Cup.
The experienced front-rower, 32, is one of five changes to the side that took on Bath Rugby last weekend with fellow Scot Mike Blair starting for the first time since the turn of the year when Sale Sharks were the visitors to Kingston Park. Blair, the most capped Scotland scrum-half of all time, partners former Quins man Rory Clegg at half-back, while Ryan Shortland gets the nod on the wing in place of Sinoti Sinoti who is sidelined with an ankle injury.
Upfront the aforementioned Lawson brings experience to proceedings and will pack down with England Saxon Kieran Brookes in the front row, with the latter impressing from the bench during his side’s last outing at Bath.
Former Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats flyer Lee Smith and on-loan Munster second-row Ian Nagle will have to wait for their chance to shine, with director of rugby Dean Richards giving the duo time to settle in on Tyneside.
Looking for his side to bounce back from their 24-6 defeat to Bath at The Rec, head coach Peter Russell said: “They are a spritely sort of side and they like to move the ball around and hold onto it for long periods.
“We have to try and nullify that by bringing the kind of defensive game we showed down at Bath.
“We know that we can play, we just need to be doing it in the right areas of the field.”
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Noah Cato, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Will Welch (c), 7 Andy Saull, 8 Mark Wilson
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Adam Powell