Gonzalo Tiesi will make his Newcastle Falcons debut when Newport Gwent Dragons come to town in the LV= Cup tomorrow night (7.45pm).
Tiesi made the switch to Tyneside last November, but within days of signing for the Kingston Park club, the potent centre sustained a hamstring injury whilst on international duty against England at Twickenham.
Meanwhile, it will be a century of appearances for Mark Wilson with the Cumbrian back-row joining the likes of Ally Hogg and skipper Will Welch in reaching the magic milestone.
Wholesale changes have been made for the visit of the RaboDirect Pro12 club as Dean Richards prepares his charges for the return of the Aviva Premiership.
Oliver Tomaszczyk is the sole survivor from last weekend’s trip to Saracens and partners loosehead Rob Vickers and hooker Matt Thompson in the front-row.
Dom Barrow makes a welcome return to the second-row alongside Fraser McKenzie following two months on the sideline, while Welch, Saull and Wilson all start in the back-row.
In the backline Warren Fury and Phil Godman get the nod at scrum-half and fly-half respectively with Tiesi and Adam Powell forming a mouth-watering combination in the centres. Samoan international Sinoti Sinoti and Noah Cato occupy both wings, and Alex Tait pulls on the No.15 jersey.
“We have approached the game as if it’s an Aviva Premiership game, and tomorrow night is a huge game for us as we look to build momentum going into a big month of league games,” said director of rugby Dean Richards.
“Newport are a very good side and they play with a lot of ambition, and they like to throw the ball around the park.
“We’ve got a huge amount of respect for them as they have pushed a lot of top quality teams close so we know it’s going to be an extremely tough contest,” he added.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Dom Barrow, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Will Welch (c), 7 Andy Saull, 8 Mark Wilson
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Franck Montanella, 18 Gary Strain, 19 Scott MacLeod, 20 Chris York, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Jamie Helleur