Newcastle Falcons have named their side for Friday night’s trip to Gallagher Premiership champions, Harlequins.
Centre Pete Lucock comes into the starting line-up in place of Matias Orlando, whom he replaced in the first half of last weekend’s game against Bath due to the head knock which rules him out of Friday’s fixture.
Injuries to back-rowers Connor Collett and Gary Graham see a reshuffled pack in which Sean Robinson slides back to blind-side flanker, with academy graduates Rob Farrar and Tom Marshall added to the starting XV. Former Scotland Under-20s cap Marshall is making his first Premiership start, with ex-England Under-20s lock Farrar starting for the third time in top-flight league action.
Newcastle’s depth in the back five of the pack has been tested with the suspension of Callum Chick, the recent retirement of Mark Wilson and the unavailability through injury of players including Will Welch, Carl Fearns, Philip van der Walt and Marco Fuser.
On the bench there could be a Gallagher Premiership debut for 22-year-old back-rower Freddie Lockwood, whose only other senior appearance came as a late replacement during last season’s European Challenge Cup victory away to Castres. Lockwood has spent much of this season on dual-registration with National One side Darlington Mowden Park, and forms part of a Falcons match-day 23 which includes 21 English-qualified players, 15 of whom have been involved with the club’s academy.
Full-back Mike Brown returns to the club where he became the record appearance holder, with another former Harlequin, Tom Penny, captaining the side.
Speaking ahead of a game which will be shown live in the UK on BT Sport, head coach Dave Walder said: “Harlequins are great to watch and they challenge you across the pitch, so it’s a great test for our lads. Everybody outside of these four walls has probably written us off, and in that sense it’s a great opportunity to go down there and spring a surprise.
“We’ve got guys coming in who have been waiting for their chance and been desperate to play, so we’re excited about what they can do. It’ll be a full house down there, we’re looking forward to the whole atmosphere and the chance to shock a few people.”
Having suffered late defeats at home in their last two outings, Walder said: “We’ve talked about what we need to do to put ourselves a little bit further ahead in games following our last two, or how we manage games to hold on towards the end.
“It’s easy to say ‘if, if, if’, but we’ve got a young group, and it’s about putting across the importance that one guy switching off for a couple of seconds can make. It can cost you a game, but I don’t think we’re far away.”
Calling upon a number of homegrown players including Tom Marshall, Rob Farrar, Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti and Will Haydon-Wood, the head coach added: “Tom has trained all year without really getting any playing opportunities, because we’ve got such strength in depth in the back row.
“It’s our most competitive area of the team so he’s had to be patient, but with the amount of guys we have unavailable he comes in and deserves that opportunity. Freddie Lockwood is in a similar boat, and has been going well for Darlington Mowden Park on dual-reg. He’s been Player of the Week in National One a couple of times, he’s trained hard and it’s always great to see the local lads coming through.
“Will and Cam are developing nicely as a partnership. They’re talking far more, they’re both exciting talents on their own right and this will be another good test for them. They’ll be up against international half-backs which will be a good learning opportunity for them, and I’m sure they’ll give as good as they get.”
Director of rugby Dean Richards has no match-day involvement due to the terms of his three-game suspension, with Walder explaining: “Dean watched our home game last weekend from the terracing on the South Stand with the supporters, and I think he quite enjoyed getting a different perspective on it.
“He obviously wasn’t in and around the team or the staff on the day, and although he isn’t travelling down to Harlequins with the squad this week I'm sure he will be in the ground somewhere, watching on.”
Newcastle Falcons team v Harlequins (Friday, 7.45pm, the Twickenham Stoop)
15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Penny (captain), 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Pete Lucock, 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Will Haydon-Wood, 9 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti; 1 Trevor Davison, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Mark Tampin, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Rob Farrar, 6 Sean Robinson, 7 Josh Basham, 8 Tom Marshall.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Maddison, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Will Montgomery, 20 Freddie Lockwood, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Max Wright.
Harlequins: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Louis Lynagh, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Tommy Allan, 9 Danny Care; 1 Joe Marler, 2 Sam Riley, 3 Wilco Louw, 4 Matt Symons, 5 Hugh Tizard, 6 Stephan Lewies (captain), 7 Tom Lawday, 8 Archie White.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Simon Kerrod, 18 Will Collier, 19 George Hammond, 20 Matas Jurevicius, 21 Lewis Gjaltema, 22 Will Edwards, 23 Luke Northmore.
Referee: Karl Dickson.