Team news: Six changes for London Irish trip

Friday 03 December 2021 Written by: Adam

Luther Burrell makes his first Premiership appearance of the season having missed the bulk of the campaign with a knee injury, and is partnered in the centres by Max Wright as George Wacokecoke recovers from a damaged eye socket suffered during last weekend’s 24-24 draw with Worcester Warriors.

Tom Penny starts on the wing with Ben Stevenson having suffered an ankle injury, Will Haydon-Wood coming in at fly-half. Gary Graham captains the side in place of the injured Will Welch, with Jamie Blamire and Carl Fearns also missing out due to injury.

The Falcons were 52-27 winners the last time the two teams met in Newcastle back in May, but forwards coach Micky Ward is expecting a stern test at the Brentford Community Stadium against an Exiles side who won away at champions Harlequins last Saturday.

He said: “Irish are a decent pack, and we got stung down there last season when they caught us out in a few areas.

“We have to keep taking steps forward, turning up with the right mind-set and understanding it won’t just happen automatically against a quality pack like London Irish’s. They’ve got a big set of forwards, a good line-out and a solid scrum, so we have to be better than we were last weekend.”

Asked about the 24-24 draw at home to Worcester, Ward said: “We were frustrated last week even though we got three points, because we had enough opportunities to take all five.

“Our set-piece went well, our scrum and maul were both on-point but it didn’t transfer over to the score-line, and we have to look at everything as a whole.

“We can’t pat ourselves on the back for having a dominant set-piece if we’re not then working back into position and keeping hold of the ball, and it’s not good enough to just have a couple of areas working well.”

On the threat posed by Saturday’s hosts, the Falcons’ all-time record appearance maker added: “It’ll be a tough challenge because they’re in good form, and there probably aren’t many people outside of their club who said they were going to win away at Harlequins last weekend.

“They did a good job on them, and in the last few weeks they’ve massively stepped up.

“We’ll need to have a good set-piece, play in the right areas of the pitch, be solid in defence and just keep on it the whole time. If we can do all of those things we’ll be in good order, and give ourselves a great chance.”

Saturday’s game is not being shown live on TV in the UK, but there will be live audio coverage on the BBC Rugby website.

**Newcastle Falcons team to face London Irish (Saturday, 3pm, Brentford Community Stadium)**

15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Penny, 13 Max Wright, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Will Haydon-Wood, 9 Louis Schreuder; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Trevor Davison, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Philip van der Walt, 7 Gary Graham (captain), 8 Callum Chick.

**Replacements:** 16 Robbie Smith, 17 Logovi’i Mulipola, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Rob Farrar, 20 Connor Collett, 21 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Pete Lucock.

**London Irish:** 15 Tom Parton, 14 Kyle Rowe, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Benhard van Rensburg, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps; 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 2 Agustin Creevy, 3 Ollie Hoskins, 4 Steve Mafi, 5 Rob Simmons, 6 Matt Rogerson (captain), 7 Tom Pearson, 8 Olly Cracknell.

**Replacements:** 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 George Nott, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Ben White, 22 Rory Jennings, 23 Matt Williams.

**Referee:** Craig Maxwell-Keys.