Newcastle Falcons name team to face Northampton Saints
Fresh from helping Fiji to an historic test victory over France last weekend, Vereniki Goneva is among the stars returning to Newcastle Falcons’ line-up for Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership trip to Northampton Saints.
The Premiership Player of the Season comes in as one of four changes to the side which beat Bath last time out, Mark Wilson returning to the back row after starting in all four of England’s autumn internationals.
Fit-again lock Sean Robinson makes his first appearance of the season after recovering from injury, the only other change seeing David Wilson start at tight-head in place of the injured Jon Welsh.
Tonga captain Sonatane Takulua returns from international duty to take up a place on the bench where he is joined by Samoa’s Logovi’i Mulipola, Newcastle Falcons having claimed victory on their last two visits to Northampton.
Head coach Dave Walder said: “The Gallagher Premiership this season is as tough as it’s ever been – probably tougher – and there’s so little between most of the clubs.
“I think that’s a big part of what makes it such an attractive league for people to watch, and it’s great as a coach because you know every week is a big challenge. It would be nice to have the odd week where you’re not biting your nails after 78 minutes, but I love that pressure and it’s all worthwhile when you win.”
Finding themselves on the right end of a 16-8 score-line at home to Bath last Friday night, Walder said: “I heard it described as an arm wrestle, which was probably a polite way of putting it. It wasn’t the best viewing but it was one of those where if you win, you go home happy, and fortunately we did that.
“We controlled territory and kept them two scores away for most of the latter stages, but it wasn’t a classic. It took us a little bit of time to work out what was going on and what we needed to do to win, but we controlled things fairly well and our forwards gave us a good platform. I thought we handled a potentially dangerous back line really well from a defensive standpoint, and although it wasn’t the prettiest it was a good result for us.”
Boosted by the return of their test contingent for Saturday’s trip to Franklin’s Gardens, the former England fly-half said: “The international boys are all back with us and we as a coaching group were quick to talk to them all on Monday morning, because it’s important to learn what worked well and also what didn’t during their international window.
“Mark Wilson went really well with England and our Fijian boys had a huge result over in Paris, and it’s been interesting to hear the feedback from them about what they learnt from their camps. Likewise with Sonatane Takulua and Logo Mulipola with Tonga and Samoa, and Chris Harris and Gary Graham with Scotland, and it’s a big opportunity for us coaches to get that insight.
“From that initial chat about their international stuff we then moved straight into how we go about integrating them back into our club training, and making them aware of the things we’ve been working on while they’ve been away. They’ve all been very responsive to that, we’ve taken little bits from what they’ve been doing and it’s really useful for us to have that input.”
Heading out in search of a sixth successive win against Northampton, Walder added: “The Saints have had a new coach bounce with Chris Boyd coming in over the summer, and my old house-mate Phil Dowson being on their staff.
“It will be interesting to see how they develop over the season but they still have that core value of physicality with guys like Dylan Hartley, Teimana Harrison, Courtney Lawes and Luther Burrell, and they’ve added quality like Dan Biggar and Naiyaravoro on the wing. They’ve shelled out big money to get those guys in, but I look at our own squad and I get hugely excited about the quality we have.
“If we work hard for each other and get ourselves onto the front foot then we’ll give ourselves an opportunity to win the game, and with the team we’ve got out there we have the ability to take that chance.”
Newcastle Falcons team to face Northampton Saints (Saturday, 3pm, Franklin’s Gardens)
15 Simon Hammersley
14 Vereniki Goneva
13 Chris Harris
12 Johnny Williams
11 Sinoti Sinoti
10 Toby Flood (captain)
9 Sam Stuart
1 Sam Lockwood
2 Kyle Cooper
3 David Wilson
4 Calum Green
5 Sean Robinson
6 Mark Wilson
7 John Hardie
8 Nemani Nagusa
16 George McGuigan
17 Adam Brocklebank
18 Logovi’i Mulipola
19 Andrew Davidson
20 Gary Graham
21 Sonatane Takulua
22 Brett Connon
23 Pedro Bettencourt
Referee: Matthew Carley