Newcastle Falcons welcome back experienced scrum-half Mike Blair to their ranks for tomorrow’s Aviva Premiership trip to Exeter Chiefs (kick-off 3pm).
The Scot, who enjoyed a stellar international career north of the border, is one of six changes as the Falcons look to close the gap on eighth place Sale Sharks.
Former Munster centre Danny Barnes partners Adam Powell at the heart of the Falcons’ backline, while Ryan Shortland gets the nod on the wing.
Kieran Brookes comes in at tighthead alongside hooker Scott Lawson and loosehead Rob Vickers. Carlo del Fava replaces Sean Tomes in the second-row and stand in skipper Ally Hogg rounds off the changes, packing down at No.8.
This weekend’s contest at Sandy Park kicks-off a pivotal period for the Tynesiders as they also host London Wasps and Sale Sharks within the next fortnight.
“This is a massive period for us which starts with Exeter tomorrow and ends with Sale in the New Year, and all three of these matches are crucial,” said director of rugby Dean Richards.
“Exeter are a side that work for each other on a weekly basis and everyone puts a shift in – as a team that’s all you can ask for and each player knows what is required of them in each position.
“Not only have they got a strong pack, they have a talented back three too, and they are now playing a lot more expansive than they have done in previous years.
“We know it’s a difficult place to play down there, and there are not many sides that get much joy out of Exeter, but we’re looking forward to the challenge,” added Richards.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Andy Saull, 8 Ally Hogg (c)
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Will Welch, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Jamie Helleur