Team news: Eight changes for Saints trip

Thursday 30 November 2017 Written by: Adam

The winger scored for Fiji in last weekend’s victory over Canada, scrum-half Sonatane Takulua also returning from the international fray after kicking Tonga to victory in Romania. He partners Toby Flood in the half-backs, Josh Matavesi returning to the centres after scoring a try in Monday’s 62-12 A-League thumping of Wasps.

Scotland’s Chris Harris starts at outside centre, the pack seeing three changes as hooker Kyle Cooper, lock Calum Green and flanker Gary Graham all come in for a Falcons side who were 22-16 winners on their last visit to Franklin’s Gardens.

Director of rugby Dean Richards said: “There are no easy games in the Aviva Premiership and Northampton will be another big challenge.

“You go through blips, highs and lows, during a season, and at this moment in time we haven’t been performing as strongly as we were earlier on. Defensively we have allowed ourselves to slip and in attack we’ve not been scoring the tries, so we just need to pick it up. Having said that we’ve been playing against some quality opposition, and you don’t get any easy weeks at this level.

“We’ve got a style of play whereby we should be scoring lots of tries, and you only have to look at the number of line-breaks we made against Wasps a fortnight ago to understand that the opportunities are there for us. It’s taking them that counts, and we need to have a little more patience and understanding of what we are about. We need to be more disciplined about playing our own style, executing it, and if we do that then things will be fine.

“The players are frustrated after last weekend because they know that a lack of accuracy has cost us dear. Gloucester were really well drilled last week and were arguably the best side we’ve come up against, and as much as we were frustrated on the night you also have to credit them for being an improving team who performed very well against us.”

Facing a Saints side who also tasted defeat last week, the Falcons boss added: “Northampton have lost two in a row but they’ll be buoyed by the fact they’re getting the England captain back in Dylan Hartley and guys like Courtney Lawes. They’ll be a difficult nut to crack but we beat them down there last season, so it holds no fears for us in that sense.

“It’s great to have our own international boys back with Niki and Tane starting, and all the other lads who’ve returned from the internationals. We’re delighted to have that bigger pool to choose from and I always look forward to game day. That’s what we’re here for, why you’re involved in sport at any level, and that’s what it’s all about.”

**Newcastle Falcons team to face Northampton Saints (Friday, 7.45pm, Franklin’s Gardens, live on BT Sport)**

15 Simon Hammersley

14 Vereniki Goneva

13 Chris Harris

12 Josh Matavesi

11 Sinoti Sinoti

10 Toby Flood

9 Sonatane Takulua

1 Rob Vickers

2 Kyle Cooper

3 Jon Welsh

4 Calum Green

5 Sean Robinson

6 Will Welch (captain)

7 Gary Graham

8 Mark Wilson


16 Scott Lawson

17 Sami Mavinga

18 Scott Wilson

19 Will Witty

20 Nili Latu

21 Sam Stuart

22 Joel Hodgson

23 Alex Tait

**Referee:** Craig Maxwell-Keys