Newcastle Falcons name team to face Harlequins
Newcastle Falcons have made five changes to their side for Sunday’s Premiership Rugby Cup trip to Harlequins, Scotland international Chris Harris among the players coming in for the 3pm kick-off at the Twickenham Stoop.
Harris replaces Ben Stevenson at outside centre, Alex Tait starting at full-back as Tom Arscott moves to the right wing following the thigh injury picked up by Zach Kibirige, who scored a hat-trick in last weekend’s 22-22 draw with Exeter Chiefs.
The other three changes come in the forwards, Sam Lockwood and Jack Payne starting at prop while Connor Collett makes his first competitive start for the Falcons since joining from New Zealand’s North Harbour.
On the bench there could be Falcons debuts for new signing John Hardie and academy graduate Rob Farrar, while Tim Swiel returns to his former club following his recent move north.
Academy manager and first team skills coach Mark Laycock and academy head coach James Ponton will once again take charge of the side, Ponton saying: “Harlequins is a new challenge and requires a different approach to Exeter last week, in some respects.
“We’ve had the players for a full week in training, which is good, because going into the Exeter match the lads had been given a few well-deserved rest days after a tough eight-week block. That rest is very important because it freshens them up mentally and physically, but we’ve been able to get through some more work this week and look at our game plan in more depth.”
Looking to learn the lessons from last weekend’s draw, Ponton added: “It was a hard game to reflect on in many ways because when you watch the footage back we did a lot of good stuff, but the overriding feeling was one of disappointment at letting a winning position slip from our grasp.
“We had targeted certain areas and our discipline was good. We stopped Exeter from functioning in key areas where they’re normally strong but we also allowed them to score soft tries from our own individual errors. In terms of system errors our defence was actually OK last week, it was more a case of guys slipping off a couple of tackles rather than people not being in the right position. Those things are easily fixable, which is what we’ll be looking to do ahead of Sunday.”
Up against a Harlequins squad led by his fellow former RGS Newcastle pupil Paul Gustard, Ponton said: “It’s a different challenge this week purely because Harlequins are a much harder team to read.
“Quins do a bit of everything over the course of the 80 minutes, there’s not as a much of a set pattern to their play and can you add in to that the fact they have changed their head coach for this season with Paul Gustard coming in. Paul’s background in defence means there has been perhaps more of an emphasis on that rather than their attack, and we’re looking forward to the challenge of putting in place an attack which will really test that improved defence of theirs.
“There are things we need to brush up on in an attacking sense, the boys know that and we have been working on it during the week, and if we get those things right we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
With the Falcons squad once again boasting a hefty contingent of homegrown players, Ponton said: “There are a lot of our academy guys coming into the side, and it’s pleasing for myself and Mark Laycock because we’ve seen their progression through the system to the point where they’re now genuinely challenging for first team spots on merit.
“The credit is theirs because they’ve worked hard, stuck at it and taken their chances when they’ve come.”
Newcastle Falcons team to face Harlequins (Sunday, 3pm, Twickenham Stoop)
15 Alex Tait
14 Tom Arscott
13 Chris Harris
12 Pedro Bettencourt
11 Adam Radwan
10 Brett Connon
9 Sam Stuart
1 Sam Lockwood
2 Santiago Socino
3 Jack Payne
4 Andrew Davidson
5 Glen Young
6 Ryan Burrows (captain)
7 Connor Collett
8 Callum Chick
16 Jamie Blamire
17 Trevor Davison
18 Jon Welsh
19 Rob Farrar
20 John Hardie
21 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti
22 Tim Swiel
23 Ben Stevenson
Referee: Michael Hudson