Gary Graham returns for Newcastle Falcons on Saturday as they host Gloucester Rugby in Gallagher Premiership action.
The in-form Scot scored two tries in the Falcons’ opening-day victory at Bath and featured strongly in victories over Wasps and Sale Sharks, Graham forming part of a side which also sees the return of Tom Penny following the injury sustained at Wasps in round three.
Brett Connon returns at fly-half as Toby Flood slides across to inside centre, Argentina international Matias Orlando pushing out to the No.13 shirt following his debut at Bristol last Friday.
That game brought a first league loss of the season, director of rugby Dean Richards taking little solace in the 29-17 defeat despite his side applying pressure for large sections of the game.
Richards said: “We had the dominance upfront, the territory and the possession, and we should have nailed it. We didn’t, though, and we have to take it on the chin.
“I’ve had people during the week telling us we played well, but we set high standards here, and if you’d been in that changing room after the game you’d have seen a group of really disappointed players.
“They don’t think they played well, because playing well means being accurate and finishing those chances. We lacked nothing in enthusiasm and we threw plenty of effort at it, but enthusiasm without that clinical edge will only get you so far against teams as good as Bristol.
“It was more disappointing the manner in which we lost, more than anything, although in fairness we’d had a number of enforced changes to the spine of our side. That change to our controlling influence affected our accuracy on the day, and at this level that’s going to cost you.”
Having this week added a ‘new’ signing in the form of prop-forward Jon Welsh, Richards expressed his delight at the experienced Scot arriving for a second spell at the club.
“We’ve had injuries in the front row, Rodney Ah You is unfortunately going to be out for a long time and we just needed that bit of strength in depth,” he said.
“Jon hasn’t moved away from the area even though he spent a couple of months with Bath during the Premiership’s summer restart, and it’s a perfect fit. He’s a real character, it’s great to have him back and he has just slotted straight in.”
Turning attention to Saturday’s opponents as Gloucester come into the game placed bottom of the Gallagher Premiership table, the Falcons boss is not falling into the trap of underestimating the Cherry and Whites.
“It’s amazing that Gloucester haven’t started well when you look at their team on paper, and there’s no doubting the fact they pose a threat,” he said.
“They should have won last weekend against Sale Sharks, they’ll be disappointed by that and absolutely nobody will take them lightly.
“The thing for us is more just about looking at our own performance after last weekend, and trying to address our own issues rather than worrying too much about the opposition.
“Getting your best decision-makers and leaders out onto the field makes such a difference, and if we can get those guys making the right calls at the right time then we stand a good chance.
“It’s going to be freezing cold, there’s been a bit of snow in the build-up and we’ll have to see what the weather throws up.
“That sometimes dictates what you are able to do, but hopefully we’ll see a good game of rugby.”
Confirming that recently-arrived Argentinean duo Santiago Grondona and Mateo Carreras are now available for selection, Richards added: “They are both here, settling in.
“They’ve had to go through an isolation period due to coming in from overseas, which is now over, and they’ve started training with the boys just this week. Saturday is a little bit too soon for them with so much to take in, but they’re both very good players and we look forward to seeing what they can bring.”
Supporters are reminded that Saturday's game is now a 2pm kick-off, having been moved for live broadcast on BT Sport 2. The BT Sport match pass scheme for season ticket holders is unaffected by this change.
Newcastle Falcons team v Gloucester Rugby (Saturday, 2pm, Kingston Park Stadium, live on BT Sport 2)
15 Tom Penny
14 Adam Radwan
13 Matias Orlando
12 Toby Flood
11 Ben Stevenson
10 Brett Connon
9 Sam Stuart
1 Trevor Davison
2 Jamie Blamire
3 Logovi'i Mulipola
4 Greg Peterson
5 Marco Fuser
6 Sean Robinson
7 Mark Wilson (captain)
8 Gary Graham
16 George McGuigan
17 Adam Brocklebank
18 Mark Tampin
19 Darren Barry
20 Philip van der Walt
21 Louis Schreuder
22 Joel Hodgson
23 George Wacokecoke
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys