Team news: Uzokwe among starters at Hartpury

Friday 4 October 2019

Simon Uzokwe makes his first start of the season as Newcastle Falcons make the Championship Cup trip to Hartpury RFC on Saturday.

The back-rower has come on as a replacement during both of the Falcons’ victories in an unbeaten start to the campaign, but is handed a start in a team showing eight changes from the one which defeated Doncaster Knights 57-0 on Sunday.

Kyle Cooper comes in at hooker after scoring from the bench last time out, Trevor Davison starting at loose-head prop. Darren Barry makes a second appearance for the club following his summer move from Worcester, while Joel Hodgson replaces Toby Flood at fly-half.

Tom Penny returns to captain the side after missing last week’s game through a head knock, Tim Swiel making his first appearance of the season at full-back after recovering from injury. Alex Tait slots onto the right wing, with Tom Arscott on the other flank after switching from full-back.

Director of rugby Dean Richards said declared himself happy with the improvement shown from their 21-8 victory at Jersey to last weekend’s nine-try showing against Doncaster, explaining: “When we reflected after the Jersey game it was probably us as a coaching staff who were to blame, because we’d asked the players to ease themselves in.

“That was purely down to the fact that we hadn’t had a pre-season game, but we felt we left four or five tries out there on the day. We have to be honest and admit that we should have told the players to really go for it right from the off over in Jersey, and when we gave them that licence against Doncaster last weekend they rewarded us with some great tries.

“I thought we were very good on the day, and the boys are really fit at the moment. They push themselves to the Nth degree, they have that commitment and drive and when you ally that to an understanding of how we want to play the game the results speak for themselves.

“It wasn’t just the physicality, it was the incessant nature of how we took the game to Doncaster which I think played a big part in the result. That was really pleasing, and we’ve set a standard now which we need to maintain and improve upon every single time we take the field.

“Our attacking intensity was matched by our tenacity in defence, but it’s only one game and nobody here is getting carried away. The opposition spent less than a minute inside our own 22 in the entirety of the game, and that just demonstrates the control we are able to exert when we get things firing as they were on Sunday. Credit to the boys for putting their bodies on the line and taking their chances, and we need to be doing that week after week now.”

Taking nothing for granted against a Hartpury side which has been beaten by both Jersey and Doncaster, Richards said: “We do look at the opposition every week, and you have to pay them that respect at this level. There’s plenty of footage out there and we have a number of guys who played against Hartpury last season, so we know what they’re about.

“The difficulty at this level from an analysis point of view is actually how unpredictable some of the teams are. For example if you play Saracens in the Premiership you know exactly how they’re going to attack and exactly how they’re going to defend, because they do it in pretty much the same way every week.

“Stopping it is obviously another thing, and Saracens are the top side that they are because they execute their game plan in a consistently ruthless manner, but what you tend to find in the Championship is that players or teams don’t always have that discipline in terms of having a defined style of play. In some ways that makes them a dangerous animal because they can throw the unexpected at you, although on the flip side if a team isn’t defending in a consistent manner then there’s the opportunity for us to exploit that through our attack.”

Keen just to keep the momentum going, the former England and Lions No 8 added: “The players here are very good at setting their own high standards and holding each other accountable when those levels aren’t met, which is really encouraging.

“Intensity and accuracy are both big factors for us, and providing we have both of those then we give ourselves a chance against anyone. It’s when we drop off in either of those two areas that we can come a cropper, and it’s being able to maintain our levels right across the year which will determine how successful we are.”

Newcastle Falcons team to face Hartpury University RFC (Saturday, 2.30pm, ALPAS Arena)

15 Tim Swiel

14 Alex Tait

13 Ben Stevenson

12 Tom Penny (captain)

11 Tom Arscott

10 Joel Hodgson

9 Sam Stuart

1 Trevor Davison

2 Kyle Cooper

3 Rodney Ah You

4 Darren Barry

5 Sebastian de Chaves

6 Callum Chick

7 John Hardie

8 Simon Uzokwe

Replacements

16 Charlie Maddison

17 Sam Lockwood

18 Mike Daniels

19 Sean Robinson

20 Connor Collett

21 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti

22 Brett Connon

23 George Wacokecoke

Hartpury University RFC

15 Mike Wilcox

14 Jake Henry

13 Jack Reeves

12 Joe Margetts

11 Sam Goatley

10 Joshua Bragman

9 Luke Carter (captain)

1 Dan Murphy

2 Will Crane

3 Alex Gibson

4 Joe Batley

5 Harry Butler

6 Akapusi Qera

7 Max Clementson

8 Will Safe

Replacements

16 Will Tanner

17 Mike Flook

18 Ashley Challenger

19 Seb Nagle-Taylor

20 Jack Preece

21 Harry Cochrane

22 Jamie Forrester

23 George Simpson

Referee: Ian Tempest

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