Adam Radwan will make his competitive debut for Newcastle Falcons in Saturday’s Anglo-Welsh Cup trip to Saracens (kick-off 1pm).
The 18-year-old winger is drafted in after starring for the Falcons in the Singha Premiership 7s, and will form part of a side showing 12 changes from the one which faced Northampton in last weekend’s opening round.
The Allianz Park clash sees Tonga No 8 Opeti Fonua making his first Newcastle start after recovering from a calf injury, while Kenyan international flanker Joshua Chisanga, hooker David Nelson and scrum-half Sam Egerton also start for the first time. England Saxons prop Scott Wilson makes his first appearance in more than a year after recovering from injury, and will be part of a forward pack which sees former England lock Mouritz Botha returning to his old club.
Fred Burdon captains the team from outside centre, Newcastle boasting four more potential debutants from the bench in the form of hooker Santiago Socino, prop Adam Brocklebank, three-quarter Ben Stevenson and back Tom Ffitch.
Head coach John Wells said: “There is no doubt in the last three or four weeks that the advent of injuries in key positions has forced us to make more changes than we would ordinarily have wanted to. This competition, as it has for most clubs, has been a bit of a Godsend for us to let some of those guys freshen up, and give the guys who are knocking on the door a chance to show they are capable of playing at this level.
“Every club is using it the same way – to give game time to those who need it, and to offer an opportunity to players. In any environment you always have guys knocking on your door asking why they aren’t getting picked, and wanting a game. Over this fortnight those players are getting their opportunity to show us, we have a very young and exciting team going down to Saracens and from our perspective I hope we go down and express ourselves in the manner we have been doing in training.”
Wells added: “This competition is what it is. Across the board around the Aviva Premiership clubs, everyone is using their squad prudently. We have been through nine Premiership and European rounds, the sport is very attritional and it is disrespectful to assume that every player can play every game. Teams use their squads accordingly, we are no different in that and everybody around the league I suspect will be looking to prepare for the next block of Premiership games.”
Relishing the ball-carrying impact offered by the likes of Fonua and Chisanga, the head coach said: “Some of the guys we have coming in have different characteristics that people perhaps haven’t seen in recent weeks, because they have either not been ready or not been fit.
“Josh and Opeti both being in the same back row will give us a different attacking dimension, even if there are other areas of our game which we may be a little bit weaker in as a result. The bottom line is we need to score some tries, so let’s release a couple of bulls onto the pitch who will make those try-scoring opportunities happen.
“Opeti is a classic case of that. Within a minute of coming onto the field against Edinburgh he had ran over the top of two people and made a try for us down the field. He opened up the game, and what we have probably missed is that little bit of X-factor to be able to do that. Out of the blue a moment like that can turn a game, even if we are not expecting Opeti to be 100% match fit. This is the first part of his graded involvement, and rather than giving him 10 minutes against Exeter we might as well give him 25 or 30 at Saracens and see where we are.”
On 18-year-old debutant Radwan, Wells added: “He has done fantastically well at A-Team level, and this is his opportunity to see if he can go up a level. What can he do?
“It is going to be a daunting environment for him but he is going to have to do it some time. Do it now, let him get some experience. If it was a relegation decider you’d be a little bit more concerned, but it’s not. This is an ideal chance for an exciting player to go out and knock on that door, show us what he’s about, and we are pleased to have him in.”
Newcastle Falcons team to face Saracens (Saturday, 1pm, Allianz Park)
15 Brett Connon
14 Dan Marshall
13 Fred Burdon (captain)
12 Craig Willis
11 Adam Radwan
10 Joel Hodgson
9 Sam Egerton
1 Alex Rogers
2 David Nelson
3 Scott Wilson
4 Mouritz Botha
5 Glen Young
6 Joshua Chisanga
7 Tyrone Holmes
8 Opeti Fonua
16 Santiago Socino
17 Adam Brocklebank
18 Paddy Ryan
19 Harrison Orr
20 Daniel Temm
21 Ruaridh Dawson
22 Ben Stevenson
23 Tom Ffitch
Referee: Mike Adamson