Ryan Burrows makes his first Aviva Premiership start for Newcastle Falcons on Saturday when they travel to Saracens.
The former Yorkshire Carnegie captain has featured in all 10 of the Falcons’ games in cup competitions this season, starting nine during their progression to the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup and the semi-finals of the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
Ally Hogg makes his first Premiership start of the season after appearing five times from the bench, Nili Latu completing the back row trio with Gary Graham (neck), Mark Wilson (hamstring) and Will Welch (head) all missing out.
The Falcons have lost only one of their last 10 matches in all competitions and have been victorious in their last four Aviva Premiership outings. They last won five top-flight games in succession during the 2008-9 season and will be captained by scrum-half Michael Young on Saturday.
He partners Joel Hodgson in the half-backs, Toby Flood missing out as he completes his return to play protocols following last weekend’s head knock which removed him during the first half of the 31-19 Anglo-Welsh Cup victory over Gloucester.
Tom Penny starts at outside centre after impressing in cup action, Juan Pablo Socino returning to the midfield as Josh Matavesi misses out with a head knock. Sinoti Sinoti returns on the wing where he partners Vereniki Goneva, Rob Vickers coming in at loose-head prop while Calum Green and Will Witty are paired in the second row.
On the bench Evan Olmstead returns from Canadian national team duty, French centre Maxime Mermoz in contention for a second Aviva Premiership appearance of the season after recovering from injury.
Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said: “We’ve had a good couple of months.
“We were disappointed not to win down at Bath a fortnight ago despite starting the game well, but overall we have been pleased with how we have turned teams over during December, January and last weekend.
“With jumping between competitions we have used a number of guys during that period, our squad depth has shown up well and we have not been hindered by having guys away or rotating our team. The players coming in have not looked out of place, the senior players have helped them but a lot of it is down to the quality of our youngsters.”
Giving Premiership exposure to a number of the players who have impressed on cup duty, Richards believes Newcastle can travel with confidence as they aim to rectify the defeat they suffered against Saracens in the United States in September.
“We’re smarting a bit from the game out in Philadelphia because we don’t feel we gave a good account of ourselves, but we’ve got our act together and will give them a really good test,” he said.
“Even with a number of guys away Saracens can still put out a virtual international pack, their back line is hardly hit by Six Nations call-ups and it’s a difficult place to go. Having said that, we’re playing well at the moment, there’s a buzz about the place and there’s no reason we shouldn’t go down there and cause problems.
“We’re playing well, and it will be a really interesting game. It’s not my style to say we’re going down there and we’ll win, but we’ll certainly give it our all. If we do that and we give a true reflection of our ability, then we give ourselves a chance.”
Newcastle Falcons team to face Saracens (Saturday, 2.30pm, Allianz Park)
15 Simon Hammersley
14 Vereniki Goneva
13 Tom Penny
12 Juan Pablo Socino
11 Sinoti Sinoti
10 Joel Hodgson
9 Michael Young (captain)
1 Rob Vickers
2 Kyle Cooper
3 Scott Wilson
4 Calum Green
5 Will Witty
6 Ryan Burrows
7 Nili Latu
8 Ally Hogg
16 Santiago Socino
17 Sam Lockwood
18 Trevor Davison
19 Evan Olmstead
20 Callum Chick
21 Sonatane Takulua
22 Maxime Mermoz
23 Alex Tait
Referee: Christophe Ridley