Unbeaten league leaders Newcastle Falcons have made four changes to their side for Saturday’s Greene King IPA Championship trip to second-placed Ealing Trailfinders.
The 3pm kick-off will be shown live in the UK on Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix, the Falcons going for their 13th consecutive victory in all competitions as they look to build on their six-point lead at the top of the table.
Returning to the side are prop Logovi’i Mulipola, flanker John Hardie, wing Sinoti Sinoti and full-back Tom Arscott, with director of rugby Dean Richards expecting a stern test against the Falcons’ closest challengers.
He said: “Ealing away is a big game for us, but it’s just one of a number of big games we’ll have over the season.
“Whatever happens on Saturday we’ll still be top of the league, so it’s just one of many important matches. The boys know that if we win then it adds a bit of distance, but from my side it’s just a normal game where you go out with the same attitude and mental approach as any other week.
“Ealing play on a 3G pitch which is fairly similar to our own, so they’ll have no advantage over us on that side. They’re a good team who have spent a reasonable amount of money on their squad, and they’ve been competitive throughout the year. It will be a hard game, and like with all of our away games they all want our scalp.
“Ealing are no different in that respect to any other team because they all want to be the first club this season to beat Newcastle Falcons as the relegated Premiership side. They have a little bit more firepower than most teams in this division, which we accept, but with what we’ve got in our squad if we play to our capabilities we should come away with the win.”
Assessing his team’s start to the season, Richards said: “It’s difficult, because we’re very critical of ourselves and we look at our own performance more so than the results.
“We’ve played really well at times and taken our foot off the gas a bit in others, allowing teams to get into the game. On the whole, though, I’ve been fairly pleased, and 12 wins from 12 is not a bad position to be in.
“It’s really pleasing that when we’ve encountered some difficult situations away from home we’ve managed to fight our way through them and found a way to win, like down at Bedford, Cornish Pirates and London Scottish just to pick out a couple.
“It’s a different type of pleasure because the scorelines in those games have been closer than we would have wanted, but it’s great to be going into these big games knowing that you have the ability to grind things out and get the job done.”
Newcastle Falcons team v Ealing Trailfinders (Saturday, 3pm, Vallis Way, live on Sky Sports)
15 Tom Arscott
14 Adam Radwan
13 George Wacokecoke
12 Josh Matavesi
11 Sinoti Sinoti
10 Toby Flood
9 Sonatane Takulua
1 Sam Lockwood
2 George McGuigan (captain)
3 Logovi'i Mulipola
4 Darren Barry
5 Sean Robinson
6 Will Welch
7 John Hardie
8 Gary Graham
16 Jamie Blamire
17 Trevor Davison
18 Mark Tampin
19 Greg Peterson
20 Callum Chick
21 Michael Young
22 Joel Hodgson
23 Ben Stevenson
Referee: Adam Leal.