Newcastle Falcons have made six changes from the side that snatched a losing bonus point at home to Northampton Saints for this Sunday’s Aviva Premiership clash with Leicester Tigers at Kingston Park (kick-off 2pm).
Lee Smith has been handed his debut, two weeks after his cross-code switch from Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. The 27-year-old, who won three consecutive Super League Grand Finals and a World Club Challenge during his time with Leeds Rhinos as well as scoring seven tries in eight games for England, starts on the wing. Meanwhile, experienced Scottish duo Phil Godman and Mike Blair form the half-back combination with Adam Powell coming in for the injured Jamie Helleur at centre.
Upfront, Scotland hooker Scott Lawson is back in the mix following his Six Nations exploits against England and Italy respectively. Making his 40th appearance for Scotland in the Calcutta Cup, Lawson was in fine form for his country in Rome last week as a last minute drop-goal from Duncan Weir secured a 21-20 victory over the Azzurri. England Saxon Kieran Brookes replaces Oliver Tomaszczyk at tighthead and faces his former employees, while Andy Saull returns to the back-row with Mark Wilson switching to No.8 in place of Ally Hogg, who is ruled out through injury.
“Week in, week out we have gradually been getting stronger and we could have and most probably should have beaten Quins down at their place a couple of weeks ago,” said head coach Peter Russell.
“Leicester will be a big test for us and we will have to be on top form in order to get anything out of the game.
“It’s important that we continue with the energy that we showed against Northampton in the second half. It’s all about our attitude and preparations have been going well throughout the week and in the last three games we’ve probably played 60 minutes of good rugby in each,” added the Kiwi coach.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Lee Smith, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Will Welch (c), 7 Andy Saull, 8 Mark Wilson
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Danny Barnes