Tom Penny makes his 50th appearance for Newcastle Falcons on Saturday when they travel to Leicester Tigers in the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
The 12.30pm kick-off at Mattioli Woods Welford Road is a straight knock-out clash, with an open draw on Sunday deciding the semi-final line-up for the weekend of April 30 and May 1-2.
Penny lines up at full-back having shone for the Falcons during last weekend’s 28-24 away win over Welsh side Ospreys in the round of 16, Newcastle fielding an unchanged side from that which started at Liberty Stadium.
Philip van der Walt, one of Newcastle’s try-scorers that day, misses out after failing a head injury assessment during the game, that blow being off-set by the return to fitness of Scotland international Gary Graham.
Rob Farrar and Cooper Vuna are both also added to the Falcons’ bench, having started Monday’s friendly match against Sale Sharks.
Head coach Dave Walder believes the return of more of Newcastle Falcons’ leaders was a factor in last week’s improved performance, and hopes his team’s new-found momentum can help atone for the defeat they suffered at the same venue less than a fortnight ago in league action.
“We had two or three guys who came back in last weekend who gave us that real stability and leadership in some key positions, which I think made a difference,” said the former England fly-half, himself a Premiership and European title winner as a player.
“Our forwards coach Micky Ward was saying during the week that normally when you play a team away from home it’s six months or a year before you get to right that wrong, and if we’ve been given this unusual opportunity of doing it in less than a fortnight.
“It’s a massive opportunity for us to make up in some way for that disappointment from the Premiership game there, and we know there were certain areas where we let ourselves down that day. We’ve worked hard at tidying those up, and aside from anything else it’s a great opportunity to reach a European semi-final.”
Assessing the threat posed by the Tigers, whom Newcastle have never met in European action, Walder said: “Leicester have gone back to the physicality and forward-based game which has served them so well down the years, with nine and ten dictating.
“It’s a much simpler game plan, but they’ve got some very good players who have put their hand up this season.
“In terms of the game we played there two weeks ago, Leicester made much better use of the wind that day than we did, and in George Ford they have probably the best kicking fly-half in Europe, who had a really good day.
“We didn’t get a few bits and pieces right but we were just about hanging in there, and in the second half we probably let them off the hook a little bit by not turning territory into points as much as we’d have liked to.
“It’s not about us having any gripes from our last game there, though – the focus is just to stick to script, take our opportunities and impose ourselves on the areas where we want to have dominance.
“If we do that we can score tries, and if we can score tries we can win games.”
Reflecting on last weekend’s away win over a star-studded Ospreys side, Walder added: “It’s a strange old season, as we all know, and I think going down to Swansea everyone had written us off due to our Premiership form and the fact they were getting all their Wales boys back after a successful Six Nations.
“We were pretty confident that if we turned up and imposed our own game on them that we could have success, and the guys stuck to script brilliantly as the game went on.
“The thing now is to repeat that down at Leicester, and I’ve got belief in this group of players that we can go there and do that.”
Newcastle Falcons team to face Leicester Tigers (Saturday, 12.30pm, Mattioli Woods Welford Road, BT Sport 2)
15 Tom Penny
14 George Wacokecoke
13 Matias Orlando
12 Pete Lucock
11 Ben Stevenson
10 Brett Connon
9 Michael Young
1 Trevor Davison
2 George McGuigan
3 Logovi’i Mulipola
4 Greg Peterson
5 Sean Robinson
6 Will Welch
7 Mark Wilson (captain)
8 Callum Chick
16 Jamie Blamire
17 Kyle Cooper
18 Mark Tampin
19 Rob Farrar
20 Gary Graham
21 Louis Schreuder
22 Joel Matavesi
23 Cooper Vuna
Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 Johnny McPhillips, 9 Richard Wigglesworth (captain), 1 Luan de Bruin, 2 Charlie Clare, 3 Joe Heyes, 4 Harry Wells, 5 Cameron Henderson, 6 George Martin, 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Hanro Liebenberg.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Tomás Lavanini, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Jack Van Poortvliet, 22 George Ford, 23 Dan Kelly.
Referee: Romain Poite (France).