Team news: Nagusa returns to face Saints
The only other change to the team for the 7.45pm Kingston Park kick-off sees Callum Chick coming into the back-row, John Hardie missing out with the shoulder injury he picked up during the Falcons’ last game against Leicester Tigers.
Mark Wilson slides across to the open-side flank, his side looking to extend a run which has seen Newcastle winning their last six in the league against the Saints, Wilson scoring an added-time winner on December 1 at Franklin’s Gardens.
Director of rugby Dean Richards said: “It’s a massive game – a must-win game.
“We know perfectly well where we are, what we’ve got to do and what’s expected from us in terms of what we need to get out of Friday.
“Even then, you look at Worcester’s run-in to the end of the season and it’s not that clear what they’re going to get from those games. There’s still a lot of hope there for us, and if we win on Friday, and even if Worcester do on Sunday, there’s still a chance. I think it will go right up to the last game of the season.”
Determined for his side to bounce back from the disappointment of a narrow home loss to Leicester Tigers in their last outing a fortnight ago, Richards said: “We should have won the game, and we had all the possession we wanted in the right areas in the final 15 minutes after being on the wrong end of a masterclass in the opening half-hour.
“We clawed our way back into the game then gifted them two easy tries in the second half, and they snuck a win. Those small margins are what we were getting over the line last year, but we’re just not quite achieving them this time.
“It is what it is, we’ve put it behind us and we know what we’ve got to do on Friday against Northampton. We’ve got to learn from it, and hopefully the boys will have done that.”
Having beaten the Saints with a late try in their last league meeting, the Falcons boss said: “Northampton are a good team, and they’ve kicked on a lot from then.
“They’ve got some key individuals who they have brought into the team, but in a way that’s irrelevant because it’s all about us. It’s about what we do, how we play when we have the ball and making sure we’re in the right areas.
“When we have possession in those areas we need to play with intensity, and when we do that it’s difficult for sides to compete with us. But you’ve got to do it for 80 minutes and take your opportunities when they come, which we’ve not always been doing.
“You’ll see no lack of intensity from the boys, and it will be whoever has the coolest heads on the day who will control the outcome.
“Northampton have got some good players, just look at their half-backs for example, but at the same time they’re coming up to Kingston Park on a Friday night – it’s a different surface, a Friday night crowd and it’ll be a hell of an atmosphere.
“So yeah, it’ll be the team which keeps its composure and makes the right decisions at the right time which will be able to dictate the result.”
Tickets are still available for Friday’s game by [**clicking here**], calling 0871 226 6060 or from the stadium box office in person.
**Newcastle Falcons team to face Northampton Saints (Friday, 7.45pm, Kingston Park Stadium)**
15 Simon Hammersley
14 Vereniki Goneva
13 Chris Harris
12 Josh Matavesi
11 Sinoti Sinoti
10 Toby Flood (co-captain)
9 Sonatane Takulua
1 Logovi’i Mulipola
2 George McGuigan
3 Rodney Ah You
4 Calum Green
5 Andrew Davidson
6 Callum Chick
7 Mark Wilson (co-captain)
8 Nemani Nagusa
16 Kyle Cooper
17 Sam Lockwood
18 Trevor Davison
19 Sean Robinson
20 Gary Graham
21 Michael Young
22 Tim Swiel
23 Johnny Williams
**Referee:** Luke Pearce