Team news: Thomas to start against Cardiff

Friday 16 December 2022 Written by: Adam

The 5.30pm Kingston Park kick-off sees the Falcons making nine changes from the side which opened the campaign away to Connacht last weekend – Thomas taking the No.10 shirt in his first season after joining from Ospreys.

Argentina wing Mateo Carreras returns to the side determined to maintain his try-per-game ratio, having dotted down seven times in seven outings this term.

Elliott Obatoyinbo comes in at full-back, with Zach Kerr starting at inside centre in place of the injured Tom Penny, partnering Ben Stevenson.

Fit-again prop Trevor Davison takes up a place on the loose-head side, with England Under-20s hooker Ollie Fletcher handed a start. Jamie Blamire misses out with a head knock picked up last weekend, while Charlie Maddison is serving the first of his three-game suspension.

Sean Robinson returns to captain the side from blind-side flanker in a move which sees Matthew Dalton pushed into the second row, with open-side Guy Pepper the other returning player. Brett Connon and Iwan Stephens are added to the bench, with the Falcons playing the second of their four scheduled pool games.

Head coach Dave Walder insisted his squad have been able to prepare as usual for the game despite sub-zero temperatures throughout the week in North East England.

He said: “It’s been freezing cold all week but luckily our 3G pitch has meant we’ve been able to train as normal, and we’ve also got a first game under our new floodlights.

“Our home advantage of having a dark south-west corner of the pitch where anything goes might be lost now, but at least our supporters will be able to see the other end of the field!

“Cardiff obviously have a 3G of their own so they’ll be used to that side of things, and they play a brilliant brand of rugby from what I’ve seen of them.”

The Welsh region began their European campaign with a home win over French club Brive last Saturday, with Walder aware of the size of the challenge facing the Falcons.

“It should be a great contest, and it’s nice to be playing teams from other leagues,” he said.

“We love the Gallagher Premiership, I think it’s an outstanding competition with quality games every single week but it’s also a nice freshener to test yourself against new opposition and potentially be exposed to some different styles and challenges.

“Last week over at Connacht was very much like that, and we always enjoy the European competitions.”

Cardiff are led by experienced former Wales and Lions prop Dai Young, with Walder saying of the former Wasps boss: “Dai came to Wasps after my own time there had ended so I don’t know him very well personally, but he’s someone I have a lot of respect for and it will be great to catch up.

“I hope they get up here safely given all the transport disruption this week, and everyone’s just looking forward to 5.30pm on Saturday now.”

[**Click here to buy tickets for the game.**][1]

Season ticket holders and season parking pass holders are reminded that this game IS included in their 2022-23 package.

The match is being shown live on Viaplay.

**Newcastle Falcons team v Cardiff Rugby (Saturday, 5.30pm, Kingston Park Stadium)**

15 Elliott Obatoyinbo, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Ben Stevenson, 12 Zach Kerr, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Josh Thomas, 9 Sam Stuart; 1 Trevor Davison, 2 Ollie Fletcher, 3 Mark Tampin, 4 Sebastian de Chaves, 5 Matthew Dalton, 6 Sean Robinson (captain), 7 Guy Pepper, 8 Tom Marshall.

**Replacements:** 16 Conrad Cade, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Josh Peters, 20 Marcus Tiffen, 21 Josh Barton, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Iwan Stephens.

**Not available for selection:** Jamie Blamire, Phil Brantingham, Sam Clark, Connor Collett, Carl Fearns, Gary Graham, Louie Johnson, Conor Kenny, Freddie Lockwood, Pete Lucock, Charlie Maddison, Logovi’i Mulipola, Matias Orlando, Tom Penny, Oliver Spencer, Philip van der Walt, George Wacokecoke, Will Welch.

**Cardiff Rugby:** 15 Ben Thomas, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Max Llewellyn, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Tomos Williams; 1 Rhys Carre, 2 Kirby Myhill, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 4 Seb Davies, 5 Rory Thornton, 6 Josh Turnbull (captain), 7 Ellis Jenkins, 8 Taulupe Faletau.

**Replacements:** 16 Liam Belcher, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Will Davies-King, 19 Teddy Williams, 20 James Ratti, 21 Ellis Bevan, 22 Mason Grady, 23 Theo Cabango.

**Referee:** Vivien Praderie (France).