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Preview: Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks

Preview: Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks

Newcastle Falcons only win in the last seven rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby was 13-6 at home to London Irish on 17th April.

Newcastle Falcons will be desperate to end their Aviva Premiership Rugby season with a win and Dean Richards’ men will be buoyed by news this week that inspirational forward Nili Latu has put pen to paper on a new deal in Tyneside.

On Saturday they welcome a Sale Sharks side chasing a top-six finish in the Aviva Premiership but the Falcons, who have just one win in their last eight Aviva Premiership Rugby fixtures, will be looking to end on a high.

Richards’ men triumphed 13-6 against London Irish in their crucial last home outing and – despite eventually falling away – looked superb in running out to a 14-3 half-time lead against league-leaders Saracens at Allianz Park last weekend.

The Falcons have not tallied a try bonus point in the tournament since Harlequins visited Kingston Park in round 22 last year.

Richards has made seven changes to the side that scared Saracens last weekend, with talisman Latu captaining the side in place of Will Welch – who misses out with injury.

Argentine Juan Pablo Socino comes in at centre for Adam Powell, while Rob Hawkins starts his final professional game at hooker alongside Mike Cusack.

Mouritz Botha is replaced at lock by Calum Green and will be partnered in the engine room by Will Witty

Despite their poor run of results, Tongan Latu admits it was an easy decision to commit his future to the Falcons.

“It was an absolute no-brainer. I have loved my first season with the Falcons, the fans have been awesome, I love the city and we have a great squad here,” he said.

“I am enjoying my time here and would like to stay longer. The team and the club has been great, I was keen to commit and it is great to have it all sorted.

“I feel we have an outstanding captain in Will Welch, some great senior players around him and it just makes it so easy when you have that in place. We can just focus on playing rugby because the set-up is so good, and I want to be part of something at a club with great history like this. It was a very simple decision.

“I am still trying to figure out the way they speak up here! There has been a lot of time spent asking people to repeat themselves, but my Geordie is coming along slowly and this is an area I have really fallen in love with.

“Our fans have been awesome with me and the team. They travel huge distances to support us, they are always behind us and it is great at Kingston Park to play in front of them.”

A victory could see Sale Sharks finish as high as fifth in the league table providing Northampton and Harlequins lose, despite Steve Diamond’s side losing 12-11 to Gloucester Rugby last Friday – their first home league loss of the season.

The Sharks only win in their last four three league matches was 29-17 at home to Bath Rugby in round 20 of Aviva Premiership Rugby.

Diamond’s men are unbeaten in their last four Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters with the Falcons since Newcastle’s 15-14 victory at AJ Bell Stadium in September 2013.

Wasps-bound Danny Cipriani and Tommy Taylor make their final starts for Sharks, while Vadim Cobilas is also bowing out.

Diamond has largely kept the faith in last week’s starting XV, the only change sees Eifion Lewis-Roberts start in place of Ross Harrison at loosehead prop.

And Sale’s Dave Seymour insists the Sharks mean business in the North East this weekend.

“It’s a massive challenge to go away to Newcastle who have been a great team at home, so it’s not going to be an easy one by any stretch of the imagination. The challenge is there for us to go up there and finish on a win,” he said.

“The other disappointing thing about last Friday was that it was some players’ last home game and it would have been nice to cement that top six and unbeaten record, but also those guys have played over 100 games, so to lose like that is a bad note.

“It’s massively important we send those guys away on a good note this weekend and they’ll want to put in some strong performances and finish their time at Sale how we all want them to finish it: with a win.”

Kingston Park

Referee: Matthew Carley (45th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth & John Meredith. TMO: Graham Hughes.

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