Team news: 150 up for Hodgson at Exeter

Friday 05 November 2021 Written by: Adam

The 29-year-old fly-half underwent shoulder surgery during the off-season, but made one try and kicked 10 points from the bench in his comeback game at Gloucester a fortnight ago.

His inclusion is one of four personnel changes – George Wacokecoke coming in at outside centre as Ben Stevenson moves out to the wing in the absence of Argentina’s Mateo Carreras.

Richard Palframan packs down at tight-head prop with Trevor Davison away on England duty – the only other change to the starting XV seeing Will Montgomery making his first Premiership start at lock.

Callum Chick is included on the bench following his midweek release from the England squad, with director of rugby Dean Richards and his side setting out in pursuit of their first league victory at Sandy Park.

Welcoming back Hodgson to the No.10 shirt for his 150th appearance, Richards said: “The competition for fly-half is really tight, and we’ve got four very good players fighting for the spot.

“Brett Connon has done a good job there, as has Will Haydon-Wood. Joel Hodgson is back fit to play this weekend, and we also have an 18-year-old in Louie Johnson who is going really well.

“We think highly of all of them and there’s not a huge amount between them, perhaps apart from the experience that Joel and Brett have accrued over the years. Will and Louie will get that as time goes on and all four of them have come through our academy, which is something else we pride ourselves on.

“In terms of Joel coming back into the starting side, we saw down at Gloucester what he brings to the team. He has a lot of Premiership experience, he takes the ball to the line and he’s a threat with ball in hand.

“He’s an exciting player who brings other guys into the game, and for a local lad like Joel to run out for his 150th appearance is great for him and his family.”

Having had a bye week from Premiership duty in round seven, the Falcons boss said: “It was worthwhile for some of the players in getting a little bit of time off to refresh, because some of them have played a lot of rugby.

“We played a friendly up in Melrose against the Southern Knights last Friday which was useful for a lot of the guys who had been lacking a bit of game time, but I think that time away for the players was just what they needed after a pretty intense couple of months.

Travelling without five of his squad due to international duty, Richards refused to dwell on their absence having had to select a side without Jamie Blamire, Trevor Davison and Adam Radwan (England), Mateo Carreras (Argentina) and Marco Fuser (Italy).

He said: “I’m absolutely delighted that our boys are getting that recognition, and for anybody who has the opportunity to play international rugby I’ll definitely push them down that route.

“I was lucky enough to do it myself, and I would never stand in the way or talk negatively about our guys being away playing for their countries rather than being with us.

“With that comes the opportunity for somebody else to come in and take that place in the club game, and to stake a claim on the shirt.

“People talk about us ‘losing’ players as if it’s a negative thing, but I see it as being really beneficial. Those guys will come back better players for having had those experiences, and to play for your country in front of 50,000 or even more supporters is incredibly special.”

Wary of the challenge posed by Exeter despite the Chiefs having lost recent home games against London Irish and Northampton Saints, he added: “Exeter are still a very good side with quality players throughout, and they’ve got plenty of strength in depth.

“I think they’re where they were 18 months or two years ago, the only difference is the other teams in the league have improved. It’s a far more competitive league now, but I don’t think that’s a negative reflection on where Exeter are.”

Saturday’s game is not being televised live in the UK but there will be live audio coverage via the BBC Rugby website, plus live in-game updates on the Falcons’ twitter, @falconsrugby .

**Newcastle Falcons team to face Exeter Chiefs (Saturday, 5.30pm, Sandy Park)**

15 Mike Brown, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Pete Lucock, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Louis Schreuder; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Richard Palframan, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Will Montgomery, 6 Philip van der Walt, 7 Will Welch (captain), 8 Carl Fearns.

**Replacements:** 16 Robbie Smith, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 19 Gary Graham, 20 Callum Chick, 21 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Tom Penny.

**Exeter Chiefs:** 15 Joe Simmonds, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Tom Hendrickson, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Josh Hodge, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Jack Maunder; 1 Alec Hepburn, 2 Jack Yeandle, 3 Harry Williams, 4 Will Witty, 5 Sean Lonsdale, 6 Jannes Kirsten, 7 Don Armand, 8 Richard Capstick.

**Replacements:** 16 Ollie Burrows, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19 Christ Tshiunza, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Ian Whitten, 23 Sean O’Brien.

**Referee:** Andrew Jackson.