Team news: Premiership century for McGuigan

Friday 05 February 2021 Written by: Adam

The 27-year-old hooker has made 114 appearances in all competitions during his two spells with the Falcons, but chalks up his top-flight century in the televised 1pm kick-off against the English and European champions.

Director of rugby Dean Richards makes three personnel changes from the side which travelled to London Irish last Sunday, John Hardie making a first start of the season as he replaces fellow Scotland cap Gary Graham in the back row.

George Wacokecoke and Brett Connon come in to the back line in place of Tom Penny and Toby Flood, a positional re-jig seeing Joel Hodgson moved to full-back as Connon takes the fly-half berth, while Wacokecoke’s inclusion at outside centre sees Matias Orlando moved to inside centre.

Fit-again Tongan international Cooper Vuna could be set for a first Premiership appearance of the season having been named on the bench, with Darren Barry, Connor Collett and Gareth Owen also added to the replacement contingent.

Richards said: “Exeter are a good side, and they travel well.

“Whichever team they put out is always competitive, even with guys away on international duty, and we’re looking forward to it.

“Exeter’s threat is right across the board.

“They play a lot of phases, they have a strong scrummage, line-out and are competitive at the breakdown. We’ve got to be on top of our game in every aspect, but the focus from the boys during the week has been good.”

With snow and sub-zero temperatures forecast during the build-up to the game, the Falcons boss said: “The weather forecast isn’t great, but I don’t think that plays massively in our favour.

“Exeter have been around the block enough to be able to deal with those kinds of challenges, and the big thing from our end is just to get the game on to begin with. Once again that will mean a lot of hard work from the staff here, but we’re ready for that challenge and will do our best to deal with whatever gets thrown at us.”

Looking to bounce back from last weekend’s loss at London Irish as his side sit fourth in the Gallagher Premiership table, the former England and Lions No 8 said: “We were disappointed last weekend, mainly by the fact we were the orchestrators of our own downfall.

“We’ve worked hard to build this reputation around playing as a team, and I think last weekend we were a little bit individual in the way we approached things. We’ve had a look at ourselves as a result of that, and gone back to basics. It was disappointing not to come away with at least a losing bonus point after those couple of late tries, but that was down to us over the 80 minutes more than anything else.

“There’s no point in looking back too much at last weekend, though. We’ve got to move forward as a team, and the boys all week have just been excited about testing themselves against Exeter.

“Overall, if you look at the season to date we’d have taken fourth place after seven rounds had it been offered to us, but the frustrating element is the two games we’ve lost down at Bristol and London Irish.

“When you have 69% possession and 65% territory you’ve got to be winning from there, but we were doing the wrong things in the wrong areas and getting a little bit individual, which is unlike us.

“Those two games have been a reality check, so we have to hit back hard now and make every opportunity count.”

**Newcastle Falcons team to face Exeter Chiefs (Sunday, 1pm, Kingston Park Stadium, live on BT Sport 2)**

15 Joel Hodgson

14 Adam Radwan

13 George Wacokecoke

12 Matias Orlando

11 Ben Stevenson

10 Brett Connon

9 Louis Schreuder

1 Trevor Davison

2 George McGuigan

3 Logovi’i Mulipola

4 Greg Peterson

5 Marco Fuser

6 Sean Robinson (captain)

7 John Hardie

8 Philip van der Walt


16 Jamie Blamire

17 Kyle Cooper

18 Mark Tampin

19 Darren Barry

20 Connor Collett

21 Sam Stuart

22 Gareth Owen

23 Cooper Vuna

**Exeter Chiefs:** 15 Facundo Cordero, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Jack Maunder; 1 Alec Hepburn, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 3 Marcus Street, 4 Will Witty, 5 Sam Skinner, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Richard Capstick, 8 Sam Simmonds.

**Replacements:** 16 Jack Innard, 17 James Kenny, 18 Maks Van Dyk, 19 Don Armand, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Tom Hendrickson.

**Referee:** Anthony Woodthorpe.