Newcastle Falcons captain Will Welch returns as one of 10 changes for Sunday’s European Challenge Cup visit of French side FC Grenoble to Kingston Park Stadium (kick-off 3pm).
The flanker replaces Dan Temm on the open-side for the second of six scheduled group games, Callum Chick starting at No 8 after a summer which saw him helping England Under-20s win the Junior World Championship.
Mark Wilson slots in at blind-side in a pack which sees the return of Calum Green at lock-forward – props Sam Lockwood and Jon Welsh both added to the side. Juan Pablo Socino and Dominic Waldouck come in as director of rugby Dean Richards refreshes his midfield, Alex Tait replacing the injured Belisario Agulla on the wing as Simon Hammersley comes in at full-back.
England Saxons prop Scott Wilson is in line for a first appearance in more than a year after overcoming injury, director of rugby Dean Richards saying: “It has been a long time out for Scotty, and if all things go well he will go out there and get a bit of game time. He is a quality player who offers us solidity in the front row, he understands how we want to play, brings mobility and a great rugby brain. That isn’t always what you get from a front-row forward!”
Richards, who coached FC Grenoble during the 2004-5 season, said: “There are only one or two at the most in terms of players who are still in their squad from my own time over there. They have had a huge turnover of staff, and they will be licking their wounds after losing at home to Lyon last weekend.
“My time over there wasn’t a culture shock because I had spent a year in that part of the world before, but maybe in rugby terms it was. I had come from a Leicester side which had enjoyed so much success and structure over a long period to a place like Grenoble, where there is very little structure. We basically went from one crisis to another, there was very little forward thinking going on there at the time and obviously it has changed a bit since then.
“In terms of Sunday’s game, you know what the French can be like in Europe. They either turn up or they don’t, and if they do turn up they will be a difficult side to play against. If they don’t it will be a very different day at the office for them, but the way we are approaching it is that they will come here fired up and it will be a hard game for us.”
Opting for a more familiar line-up after last Friday’s 45-0 reverse at Ospreys, the Falcons’ boss said: “We sent down a pretty inexperienced team. When you look at the back five of the scrum we had five guys with probably about 10 Premiership appearances between them, and they had two British and Irish Lions in a side with 11 full internationals. It was a huge learning curve for the boys, for 20 minutes we did well but it is about understanding how to do those repeated actions time and time again.
“We have a far more experienced side out on Sunday than we did down at the Ospreys. There were boys who needed a rest last week, a number of those are back in now and it will be an interesting game. We showed in the first 20 minutes at Ospreys the style and shape we want to play with, and with the more experienced guys coming back this weekend we should be able to keep that up for a lot longer. When we do that we score a lot of points and win matches, the boys are going out there and we will show what we are about.”
Richards added: “For us, the Aviva Premiership is our bread and butter. It is about getting as high up that domestic league as we can, but the European Challenge Cup is useful in terms of driving competition for places in that regard. If we do well in either the Challenge Cup or the Anglo-Welsh Cup so be it. We will try our hardest to win every game we possibly can, but also understanding where our priority is with the Premiership.
“If we win on Sunday, then home and away against Lyon, we have Grenoble at home and let’s see what happens after that. It is quite an interesting group, and if we can beat both French sides home and away it comes down to the last game at home with the Ospreys in January.”
Tickets for Sunday’s game are available by calling 0871 226 6060, with the club offering free curry for supporters in the East Stand Tap & Tackle bar from around 5.30pm.
Newcastle Falcons team to face FC Grenoble (Sunday, 3pm, Kingston Park Stadium)
15 Simon Hammersley
14 Marcus Watson
13 Dominic Waldouck
12 Juan Pablo Socino
11 Alex Tait
10 Joel Hodgson
9 Michael Young
1 Sam Lockwood
2 Ben Sowrey
3 Jon Welsh
4 Calum Green
5 Will Witty
6 Mark Wilson
7 Will Welch (captain)
8 Callum Chick
16 Scott Lawson
17 Rob Vickers
18 Scott Wilson
19 Mouritz Botha
20 Daniel Temm
21 Sonatane Takulua
22 Craig Willis
23 Fred Burdon