Andrew Davidson and Tyrone Holmes will make their Newcastle Falcons debuts on Sunday when Northampton Saints are the Anglo-Welsh Cup visitors to Kingston Park Stadium (kick-off 3pm).
Having represented Scotland Under-20s in this summer’s Junior World Championship, former Glasgow Warriors forward Davidson has played for the Falcons in both the Singha Premiership 7s and the Aviva A-League, but has seen his recent progress hindered by injury.
Likewise Holmes, the former Scotland flanker who won the Pro 12 title with Glasgow and joined Newcastle in the summer, but has sat out the first six weeks of the campaign with a knee injury after impressing in an unbeaten pre-season.
They form part of a side showing eight changes from the one which faced Wasps in last weekend’s Aviva Premiership outing – full-back Alex Tait captaining the team.
Fred Burdon and Craig Willis come in to form a new midfield partnership, David Wilson starting at tight-head prop in a front five which also includes debutant Davidson and Will Witty. Callum Chick keeps his place at No 8 as Ally Hogg and Holmes pack down on the flanks, while Kenyan international Joshua Chisanga could be set to make his senior debut from the bench.
Sunday’s game is the first of four scheduled pool matches in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, with the four group winners progressing into March’s semi-finals.
Attack coach Dave Walder said: “It’s an opportunity for a lot of guys who have been knocking on the door over the first seven or eight weeks of the season, asking for an opportunity. We’ve been fortunate in certain areas to not have injuries, but we’ve got some pretty bruised and battered people who will get a rest this weekend.
“That creates opportunities for other guys to put their hands up, but ultimately it’s about the team attacking well, building on what we’ve done so far, developing in certain areas and adding and tweaking our attack to give us the try-scoring ability we’ve lacked.
“We probably lack a little bit of confidence when we get to the line. We haven’t scored a lot of tries all season. We looked at it after three or four games in the Premiership and made a slight tweak to the attack, and it’s freed us up in terms of creating opportunities, but we haven’t been nailing them.
“These next two weeks will hopefully be a chance to score some tries and get the bandwagon rolling again, so that when we go into the next block of Premiership we’re flying. We’ve been defending well, if we can ally that to some good attack and hopefully score a few more points we can win a few more games.”
Expecting a tough test from the Saints despite the absence of a number of international players on both sides, Walder added: “They’re a good team with good depth in their squad. They’ll be missing a few guys with England and they’ve had a fairly tough start with the Champions Cup games.
“They’ve had seven or eight weeks on the grill and haven’t necessarily had the start they’d want, but they’ll come up here trying to get momentum back on their side to build for their next block of Premiership fixtures.
“The guys coming in for the England players have got the opportunity to put their hands up for a shirt, so no matter what you think they’ll be very competitive in certain areas, but I’m pretty confident if we attack them like we know we can and have that confidence to score those tries, we will be on the right side of the score on Sunday.”
Losing just one of their four home games this season, a one-point reverse against Leicester, Walder said: “It’s important to win at home. The crowd here have been important over the last few weeks and we’re just starting to build something at home.
“Looking over the last few weeks of last season and the start here this season, our home record’s starting to be something we’re proud of. We’ll be fighting on Sunday to carry it on.”
Sunday’s game will be preceded by a two-minute silence, playing of the ‘Last Post’ and the laying of a wreath on the field, with the Poppy Appeal collecting in and around the ground. After the match at 5.15pm on the main pitch there will be a match between the 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery and 4th Regiment Artillery. Entry to this game is included in the Falcons match ticket.
Tickets for the Anglo-Welsh Cup clash are available from £15 adults, £12 concessions and £5 for under-16s. To book call 0871 226 6060. Season ticket members are reminded that this game is included in their package for 2016-17, while all supporters can look forward to free food approximately 30 minutes after the final whistle as Curry Corner returns to the East Stand bars.
Newcastle Falcons team to face Northampton Saints (Sunday, 3pm, Kingston Park Stadium)
15 Alex Tait (captain)
14 Marcus Watson
13 Fred Burdon
12 Craig Willis
11 Sinoti Sinoti
10 Mike Delany
9 Michael Young
1 Sam Lockwood
2 Ben Sowrey
3 David Wilson
4 Will Witty
5 Andrew Davidson
6 Ally Hogg
7 Tyrone Holmes
8 Callum Chick
16 Scott Lawson
17 Rob Vickers
18 Jon Welsh
19 Glen Young
20 Joshua Chisanga
21 Sam Egerton
22 Joel Hodgson
23 Dominic Waldouck
Referee: Greg MacDonald