Team news: Van der Walt returns against London Irish

Thursday 21 April 2022 Written by: Adam

The South African, who this week signed a new three-year contract to remain in the North East, has recovered from a knee problem and comes in at second row for the injured Greg Peterson.

Will Welch captains a side which sees the return of Callum Chick, with the Falcons out for a repeat of the 52-27 victory they enjoyed over the Exiles on their last visit to the North East in May of last year.

Joel Hodgson starts at fly-half after scoring from the bench in last week’s home date with Glasgow Warriors, with Argentina wing Mateo Carreras and centre Max Wright also added to the back line.

Fit-again flanker Gary Graham returns to a powerful bench, with director of rugby Dean Richards determined to finish the season strongly.

“I’ve often said that the Gallagher Premiership is the most competitive club league in the world,” said Richards.

“Every game is up for grabs and you have to be on your mettle every single round, which is the beauty of the competition.

“We’re all new to this ring-fenced scenario, but we still go out there with the firm intention of winning every game we play.

“It changes nothing in that sense, and you put your best available side out every week with a view to winning each game. For various reasons we have not been able to do that for a lot of the middle part of the season, but we’re starting to get guys back and it’s nice to have that degree of consistency.”

Newcastle were 45-10 winners away to Worcester in their last Premiership outing three weeks ago, with Richards admitting that a tricky middle third to the season had hampered his team’s progress.

“It’s well documented that we went through a difficult patch around Christmas and throughout January with a number of games missed due to Covid, and a high volume of guys testing positive throughout the squad,” said the England and Lions great.

“In February and March things started to settle down a bit and we began to get a greater degree of consistency in performance and personnel, and we had some narrow defeats against some really good teams.

“We didn’t quite get the rewards that we wanted from those games, and the Worcester away game was probably the game where things came together in terms of the level we had been building towards.”

Likening Friday’s visitors to Glasgow Warriors, who were 27-17 victors in last Friday’s European action, Richards added: “London Irish play an incredibly fast game of rugby.

“Their ruck-speed is probably the quickest in the Premiership at the moment, they like to play on the front foot and it’s all about containing them in that respect. It’s also about pin-pointing their defensive weaknesses, and we know they’ve got a few.

“Glasgow play a similar type of rugby to London Irish, and I think we got caught cold against them last Friday. We weren’t quite at the races during the first ten minutes, and the start on Friday is key.”

The 7.45pm kick-off against London Irish forms the second part of a double header, with England Students hosting France Universities at 3pm. Entry to both games is included on the Falcons match ticket, which is available by [**clicking here**][1].

For those unable to attend in person, the Falcons’ game against London Irish will be available on the PRTV live stream for £4.99, by [**clicking here**][2].

**Newcastle Falcons team v London Irish (Friday, 7.45pm, Kingston Park Stadium)**

15 Tom Penny, 14 Mateo Carreras, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Max Wright, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Trevor Davison, 4 Philip van der Walt, 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Josh Basham, 7 Will Welch (captain), 8 Callum Chick.

**Replacements:** 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Freddie Lockwood, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Will Haydon-Wood, 23 Adam Radwan.

**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 Rob Simmons, 5 Adam Coleman, 6 Matt Rogerson (captain), 7 Tom Pearson, 8 Albert Tuisue.

**Replacements:** 16 Matt Cornish, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Sean O’Brien, 21 Ben White, 22 Will Joseph, 23 Henry Arundell.

**Referee:** Karl Dickson.