Team news: Gary Graham returns for Friday

Thursday 22 December 2022 Written by: Adam

The Gallagher Premiership clash is a 7.45pm kick-off at Kingston Park Stadium, with Graham returning to action after injuring his knee on pre-season duty at Leicester Tigers in August.

The Scottish international joins a re-jigged back row which sees the return of Carl Fearns following the head knock he picked up three weeks ago at London Irish, with Callum Chick completing the trio. Guy Pepper misses out with the foot injury he sustained at home to Cardiff last weekend, with Sean Robinson also ruled out after leaving the field with a shoulder injury.

Hooker Jamie Blamire returns to the fray after recovering from the head knock he picked up away to Connacht two weeks ago – Trevor Davison switching to the tight-head side as the Falcons set out in search of their fifth consecutive home league win over Sale Sharks.

That run stretches back to May 2016, with Newcastle’s last home game of 2022 seeing the return of USA international Greg Peterson to the second row. He partners Sebastian de Chaves, who in the last round of Premiership games topped the league-wide stats for line-out steals and line-outs taken on his side’s own throw.

Brett Connon comes in at fly-half after kicking 100% at goal on his last three Premiership outings, with Tom Penny and Matias Moroni forming the centre partnership. Adam Radwan and Mateo Carreras line up on the wings, with head coach Dave Walder relishing the prospect of hosting their nearest Premiership rivals.

He said: “It’s an important game for lots of reasons, and hopefully we can get our biggest crowd of the season with it being a Friday night just before Christmas.

“Your turkey always tastes a bit nicer on the back of a win, but we know we’re up against a good side and that we’ll have to work hard for the result.”

Sale come into the game on the back of Sunday’s bruising loss at Toulouse, Walder saying: “We’re on a six-day turnaround and they’re on a five-dayer coming back from France, but Alex Sanderson has got them firing.

“They’ve got a good squad full of internationals, they compete in all areas and their stats across the board are pretty high. It’ll be a tough challenge, but it’s one we’re looking forward to.

“Both sides will be keen to bounce back after losses in Europe, but it’s our Christmas fixture and I’m sure it will be a great occasion with hopefully a decent turn-out. We’re all determined to put on a performance for the guys who come along to support us, and to give them a bit of an early Christmas present.”

The revolving door of player availability continues to turn, with Walder explaining: “Having the likes of Gary Graham back fit and available after such a long absence is a boost for us, albeit it tempered with the loss of Guy Pepper and Sean Robinson with what could be serious injuries picked up against Cardiff.

“We’ll know more about those in the coming days, but Gary is certainly someone who will roll up his sleeves and knuckle down for the physical battle.”

Determined to generate momentum into a league campaign which has seen the Falcons winning two of their last four, the head coach added: “It’s a big three-week block for us with having Bath away on New Year’s Eve and then Leicester at home the following weekend.

“Although they’re all tough games, we know there’s the opportunity for us to get points on the board and start pushing further up the league table.”

With the Sale fixture falling on Friday, Walder’s charges will at least be able to have some degree of normality around their Christmas this year.

“The players will have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, and we’re not starting training on Boxing Day until the afternoon, just to allow guys to drive back if they’ve been visiting friends and family around the country,” he said.

“The guys are all sensible – they know not to go overboard, and we’ll have a good build-up going into the New Year’s Eve trip down to Bath.

“It’s always a difficult time as a sportsman, but the way the fixtures have fallen this year at least allows the lads to enjoy a little bit of family time, and to celebrate as best they can.”

[**Click here**][1] to buy tickets for Friday’s game.

If you can’t make it in person the match is being streamed on PRTV Live for £4.99. [**Click here**][2] to buy your stream.

**Newcastle Falcons team v Sale Sharks (Friday, 7.45pm, Kingston Park Stadium)**

15 Elliott Obatoyinbo, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Tom Penny, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Michael Young (captain); 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 Jamie Blamire, 3 Trevor Davison, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Gary Graham, 7 Callum Chick, 8 Carl Fearns.

**Replacements:** 16 Ollie Fletcher, 17 Logovi’i Mulipola, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Matthew Dalton, 20 Tom Marshall, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Zach Kerr.

**Not available for selection:** Phil Brantingham, Sam Clark, Connor Collett, Louie Johnson, Conor Kenny, Freddie Lockwood, Pete Lucock, Charlie Maddison, Chidera Obonna, Matias Orlando, Guy Pepper, Sean Robinson, Oliver Spencer, Philip van der Walt, George Wacokecoke, Will Welch.

**Sale Sharks:** 15 Luke James, 14 Arron Reed, 13 Ryan Mills, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Gus Warr; 1 Bevan Rodd, 2 Ewan Ashman, 3 Nic Schonert, 4 Cobus Wiese, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Jono Ross, 7 Ben Curry (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez.

**Replacements:** 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Josh Beaumont, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Tom Curtis, 23 Byron McGuigan.

**Referee:** Adam Leal.