Callum Chick captains Newcastle Falcons on his 100th appearance for the club, as they host Saracens in Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership clash at Kingston Park Stadium.
The 25-year-old academy graduate returns to the side following the completion of his two-game suspension, with the England international taking over the captaincy from Tom Penny, who misses out due to illness.
Former Saracen Nathan Earle replaces Penny on the wing, with the only other change to the team seeing Louis Schreuder return at scrum-half.
As well as Chick’s century there are also appearance milestones for centre George Wacokecoke and lock Greg Peterson, who both line up for their 50th game for the Falcons.
Speaking ahead of his big day, Chick said: “I’m really excited about it, my family will be coming down and it’s a great honour for me.
“I grew up around here, I used to come and watch the Falcons when I was a kid and it gives me massive pride to captain the team on my 100th game. There’ll obviously be a bit of emotion around it with reaching that milestone, but the most important thing is performing well for the team and making sure we can get that win that we all know we need.”
Newcastle Falcons’ director of rugby Dean Richards said: “We’ve got an incredible academy in terms of what they produce year after year for the club, and Callum is a prime example of that.
“He’s a Ponteland lad, he’s come all the way through our system and it’s a really special thing for all of us that he will captain the team on his 100th game. We’re all delighted for him, and if you couple that with the fact he’s had international recognition over the past year, he’s just made fantastic progress.
“I was sat down with our academy coaches this week talking through the lads that are coming through the system in the next few years, and there’s a conveyor belt of really rich talent. It’s so important for us as a club, and guys like Chicky are a real inspiration for those boys.”
Despite the Falcons topping last weekend’s Opta stats for carries, metres made and defenders beaten they fell to a 24-10 defeat at champions Harlequins, but Richards feels that victory is not far away for his side.
“Harlequins play a very expansive game but they also leave a lot of opportunities for you to create things, and although we did have a lot of pressure we only managed to convert one of those chances,” he said.
“It shows that we’re not far off, and we’re creating far more chances than we were at the start of the season. Everyone knows we need to add that clinical edge in terms of how we take those opportunities, and that is where a lot of the work has been going in.
“There are no easy games in the Gallagher Premiership, and the boys are looking forward to facing Saracens on Saturday.
“Sarries are a good side, and although we’re in a run of defeats, if you look at the performances in our last three games there has actually been a lot of good stuff in there. We’ve been really competitive against Exeter, Bath and Harlequins, and but for the bounce of a ball or a couple of decisions going our way, we could have won those games."
Assessing the threat posed by their North London visitors, he added: “Saracens are very similar to a number of other Premiership sides in terms of their exit strategy from their own half.
“They’ll challenge us physically, we’ll have to earn the right to go wide rather than just flinging it out there, and defensively we’ll need to be strong. Their set-piece is good, they don’t play inside their own half but we still feel there are opportunities out there for us which we can exploit."
Click here to buy tickets for the 3pm kick-off, with supporters also able to watch the England v Ireland game at 4.45pm on the TVs in the stadium bars.
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Newcastle Falcons team v Saracens (Saturday, 3pm, Kingston Park Stadium)
15 Mike Brown, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Pete Lucock, 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Will Haydon-Wood, 9 Louis Schreuder; 1 Trevor Davison, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Mark Tampin, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Rob Farrar, 6 Sean Robinson, 7 Josh Basham, 8 Callum Chick (captain).
Replacements: 16 Charlie Maddison, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 19 Freddie Lockwood, 20 Will Montgomery, 21 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Max Wright.
Saracens: 15 Elliott Obatoyinbo , 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Rotimi Segun, 10 Alex Goode (captain), 9 Aled Davies; 1 Richard Barrington, 2 Tom Woolstencroft, 3 Vincent Koch, 4 Theo McFarland, 5 Tim Swinson, 6 Jackson Wray, 7 Ben Earl, 8 Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Kapeli Pifeleti, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Sam Wainwright, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Andy Christie, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Dom Morris, 23 Alex Lewington.
Referee: Ian Tempest.