Team news: Alex Tait set for Friday night finale

Thursday 20 April 2023 Written by: Adam

The 7.45pm Gallagher Premiership kick-off sees Tait named among the replacements, with the full-back poised to add to his 269 appearances before retiring at the end of the campaign.

Newcastle make three changes to the side which started at Harlequins last weekend – fit-again Argentina international Matias Orlando starting in the centres with Ben Stevenson ruled out by a head knock.

Logovi’i Mulipola packs down at loose-head prop, with Freddie Lockwood added to the back row after scoring from the bench last time out. Philip van der Walt and Tom Penny are both on the bench after recovering from hand and ankle injuries respectively.

The Falcons were on the wrong end of a 32-31 thriller when they faced Northampton in league action earlier in the season, with interim head coach Mark Laycock expecting another full-blooded encounter.

He said: “Northampton tend have a lot of points in their games at both ends of the field, and in many ways it’s a similar kind of challenge to the one we faced last weekend at Harlequins.

“I thought we defended well for an hour or more, but the pressure eventually told and we started to have a couple of mental switch-offs and lost a couple of collisions which enabled them to generate momentum and pull away right at the end.

“We didn’t really fire any shots in attack but we see Friday as a shot at redemption, and we’re excited about playing at home in front of a good home crowd.”

Aiming to show more going forward, Laycock added: “Where we want to be as a squad is not on the back foot trying to stay in a contest – we want to be asserting ourselves on the teams we play against.

“The reality is we’ve got a bit of work to do before we can get there on a consistent basis, but the lads’ commitment to the game plan and to each other is absolutely outstanding.

“Friday is a big opportunity to spoil Northampton’s party because they have a bye on the last weekend, so this is their last game of the regular season. They need the points from this one to give themselves a chance of play-off rugby and we’ve got every intention of stopping them from doing that.”

Tapping into the depth of feeling surrounding Tait and Welch as the double centurions say goodbye to their home fans, he said: “There will definitely be a lot of emotion around the place following the announcements of Will Welch and Alex Tait retiring.

“They’re both outstanding characters who have given everything for this club, and it’s great that both guys will have the chance to receive the applause of the crowd before and after the game.

“That atmosphere just gives us a little more fuel on the fire in making sure the lads are putting their bodies on the line, and Mark Wilson has driven that really well this week. He’s got the squad in a great place emotionally and we’re all looking forward to what should be a fantastic occasion.”

Book your tickets for the game by [**clicking here**][1].

**Newcastle Falcons team v Northampton Saints (Friday, 7.45pm, Kingston Park, live on BT Sport)**

15 Elliott Obatoyinbo, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Matias Orlando, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Michael Young (captain); 1 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 Jamie Blamire, 3 Mark Tampin, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Pedro Rubiolo, 7 Freddie Lockwood, 8 Callum Chick.

**Replacements:** 16 Conrad Cade, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Conor Kenny, 19 Philip van der Walt, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Tom Penny, 23 Alex Tait.

**Not available for selection:** Connor Collett, Luke Coulston, Ollie Fletcher, Gary Graham, Ewan Greenlaw, Zach Kerr, Charlie Maddison, Guy Pepper, Richard Palframan, Vereimi Qorowale, Sean Robinson, Oliver Spencer, Ben Stevenson, George Wacokecoke, Will Welch.

**Northampton Saints:** 15 George Furbank, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Tommy Freeman, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Alex Mitchell; 1 Alex Waller, 2 Sam Matavesi, 3 Paul Hill, 4 David Ribbans, 5 Alex Moon, 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Lewis Ludlam (captain), 8 Juarno Augustus.

**Replacements:** 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Alfie Petch, 19 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Sam Graham, 22 Tom James, 23 Tom Litchfield.

**Referee:** Wayne Barnes.