Newcastle Falcons name team to face Exeter Chiefs
Newcastle Falcons welcome club captain Will Welch back into their starting line-up for Sunday’s visit of Aviva Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs to Kingston Park Stadium (kick-off 3pm).
The clash against the league leaders sees the Falcons going for their sixth successive victory in all competitions after completing a December clean sweep, Welch returning to the side in place of Nili Latu in the only change to Newcastle’s forward pack.
Sinoti Sinoti is back the wing after recovering from a head knock, Michael Young replacing Sonatane Takulua at scrum-half while Josh Matavesi comes in at centre for Juan Pablo Socino.
Director of rugby Dean Richards insists his side will treat the Chiefs with respect rather than trepidation, saying: “Exeter are a side who hold no fears for us, but let’s make no mistake about the fact they’re the champions, league leaders and they’re in a good run of form in the Premiership.
“They’ve lost a couple of times in Europe against Leinster, which surprised me, but Exeter are a very well-drilled side who play to a script and a shape far better than any other team in the Premiership. They have something like 25% more possession than their opponents over the course of a game, they stick very much to their pattern and it’s a policy which is working for them.
“The notion that they’re a Championship club who have come up and done it in a shoe-string budget isn’t true because they spend a reasonable amount of money on their squad, and we’re not as competitive as them in the financial stakes. It’s not the way we want to work at this moment in time – we’ll get there eventually – so we have to do it a different way.”
Richards added: “They have a script and they never vary from it, everyone buys into it and we’re similar in that respect. But our shape is different from theirs, we’ve got a different style to suit the players we have and it should be an interesting game on the weekend.
“Exeter are very good at what they do and that makes them very difficult to beat, but if you compete hard at the breakdown, deny them possession and limit their usual 24 minutes of ball-in-hand to somewhere nearer 17 or 18, then it’s a different game altogether.
“That’s not easy to do because they’re outstanding in the way they execute their script, they’ve bought wisely and everybody sings off the same hymn sheet. That said, we’ve got threats of our own and a team which is going well, so Exeter will be looking at us and understanding that it won’t be easy for them up here on Sunday.”
Going into round 13 sat fifth in the table as well as being top of their European Challenge Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup pools, Richards said: “We’re fairly happy with how things went in 2017 but, the way we are as people, there’s always room for improvement.
“You look at missed opportunities and we’ve had a few of those, so it’s how you learn from them and how you better yourself that counts. There were points which went begging at times but the players are enjoying themselves, we’re playing a good style of rugby and we’re making decent progress overall.
“We’re half-way through a busy season and our aim is to improve on where we finished last time round. There’s a lot of hard work to come between now and the end of the campaign but we’re on with that job, and just looking to keep getting better in every area.”
Tickets for Sunday’s game are available by calling 0871 226 6060.
Newcastle Falcons team to face Exeter Chiefs (Sunday, 3pm, Kingston Park Stadium)
15 Simon Hammersley
14 Vereniki Goneva
13 Chris Harris
12 Josh Matavesi
11 Sinoti Sinoti
10 Toby Flood
9 Michael Young
1 Rob Vickers
2 Kyle Cooper
3 Jon Welsh
4 Calum Green
5 Sean Robinson
6 Will Welch (captain)
7 Gary Graham
8 Mark Wilson
16 Scott Lawson
17 Sam Lockwood
18 Scott Wilson
19 Evan Olmstead
20 Nili Latu
21 Sonatane Takulua
22 Joel Hodgson
23 Juan Pablo Socino
Referee: Andrew Jackson.