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LV= Cup Preview: Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks

As a hooker, Rob Hawkins enjoys the physical, attritional side of rugby and is convinced Newcastle Falcons’ LV= Cup clash with Sale Sharks on Sunday will be just that.

Newcastle will be bidding to record a first victory in this year’s competition, having suffered previous defeats to Northampton Saints and Cardiff Blues.

That has left them third in Pool 3, eight points behind table-topping Leicester Tigers, and with only slim hopes of qualification.

But Dean Richards has selected a strong side to take on the Sharks with four internationals, Uili Kolo’ofai, Josh Furno, Scott MacLeod and Eric Fry in the pack and experienced campaigners such as Ruki Tipuna, Rory Clegg and Alex Tait in the backline.

Hawkins is anticipating a tight encounter at Kingston Park and believes the game could well be settled by the forwards.

“They’ve got a very similar squad to us,” he explained. “It’s a very competitive squad that have played some very good rugby and have had some very good results throughout the season.

“Whenever you play a Sale side, it is always going to be pretty tough and we won’t be taking them lightly.

“I think most games begin and end up front and Sale are a side who like to drive, so that is something we will have to nullify.

“I know they like to drive a lot of their line-out ball and that is something they have had success with, so we will be focusing on stopping that.

“But hopefully the game will be won and lost up front.”

By contrast, Steve Diamond has chosen a youthful starting XV for Sale with the likes of Ciaran Parker and George Nott getting their first starts for the club.

Nott came off the bench to make his debut away to Munster in the European Rugby Champions Cup last weekend and will line up in the second row from the start this time around.

The Sharks opened up their LV= Cup campaign with a 32-29 victory over Wasps but went down to Leicester 29-13 in round two.

That leaves them with an uphill battle to qualify from Pool 2 but Nott is hoping to use the competition as a springboard to build on his encouraging debut.

“Thomond Park was a great place to make my debut and although the result obviously didn’t go to plan, it was still a really amazing experience,” he said.

“I enjoyed my time around the first-team squad and it is all part of the experience. Just getting stuck into the environment the night before was really helpful as well.

“I’m definitely targeting a few more appearances in the LV= Cup and hopefully I can get a bit more game-time and get a bit more experience under my belt.”

Tickets for this year's LV= Cup Final on 22 March at Franklin's Gardens are now on sale. Click here to snap one up from just £20 for adults, £10 for juniors to see who will win the first silverware of the season.

 

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