Newcastle Falcons have named their team for Saturday’s trip to the Coventry Building Society Arena as they aim to complete a Gallagher Premiership home-and-away double over Wasps.
The Falcons were 18-14 winners thanks to Callum Chick’s late try when the two teams met at Kingston Park Stadium back in October, and won 34-27 a month later when they did battle at the same venue in the Premiership Rugby Cup.
Newcastle have also won on their last two visits to Coventry, and come into the game on the back of last Friday’s 36-28 home cup win over Leicester Tigers.
Centre Luther Burrell makes his Premiership comeback, having started in that match, with returning full-back Tom Penny joining Callum Chick in co-captaining the side.
Homegrown back-rower Freddie Lockwood makes his first Premiership start after impressing from the bench and in the cup in recent weeks, with Greg Peterson and Sean Robinson returning to the second row. George McGuigan is back at hooker, looking to add to his tally of 11 tries in 19 games this season - Will Welch slotting into a back row which sees Josh Basham and Tom Marshall added to the lengthy list of injured absentees.
Argentina wing Mateo Carreras returns on the wing after scoring against Gloucester in his last game prior to injury, with countryman Matias Orlando among a replacements contingent which also includes Marco Fuser, fresh from helping Italy to last weekend’s historic Six Nations victory over Wales.
Director of rugby Dean Richards said: “Wasps are a good team on paper, and their injury situation is abating from what it was earlier in the season.
“They have very quick outside backs, in Malakai Fekitoa they have one of the best centres in the Premiership and then with their back five they’ll be very competitive at the maul and breakdown.
“You can look at their side and point out the many good players, but we’ve got a lot of our own, and that’s where our focus is. We’ve got a decent record against Wasps, we’ve won on our last couple of visits there as well as beating them at our place this season, and we’re all looking forward to what should be a great contest.”
Looking for their first league win of the calendar year despite a string of close finishes, Richards said: “Everything has been pretty tight in terms of our last three or four Premiership games, during which we’ve played some good stuff and only lost late on by some narrow margins.
“We also battled well to beat Leicester Tigers last weekend in the Premiership Rugby Cup, and although the results haven’t quite gone our way recently in the league we don’t feel like we’re far away from making it happen.
“Getting those tight games across the line is the next step for us, but I’ve got confidence in this group being able to do that with the quality we’ve got. We’ve begun that process with the cup win in our last outing, and now we need to take it into the Premiership.
“I thought we saw some good signs in last week’s cup game, even though it’s a different competition and some of the personnel had been changed. I liked our general enthusiasm, I thought we stuck to script in the way they we’d talked about, and just the general execution of what we were trying to do was much better.”
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Newcastle Falcons team v Wasps (Saturday, 3pm, Coventry Building Society Arena)
15 Tom Penny (co-captain), 14 Adam Radwan, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Will Haydon-Wood, 9 Louis Schreuder; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Trevor Davison, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Will Welch, 7 Freddie Lockwood, 8 Callum Chick (co-captain).
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Conrad Cade, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Connor Collett, 21 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Matias Orlando.
Wasps: 15 Zach Kibirige, 14 Paolo Odogwu, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dan Robson; 1 Robin Hislop, 2 Gabriel Oghre, 3 Biyi Alo, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 5 Elliott Stooke, 6 Brad Shields, 7 Jack Willis, 8 Alfie Barbeary.
Replacements: 16 Dan Frost, 17 Tom West, 18 Elliot Millar-Mills, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Tom Willis, 21 Will Porter, 22 Sam Spink, 23 Marcus Watson.
Referee: Andrew Jackson.