Matias Orlando is among the returning players for Newcastle Falcons on Saturday as they make the European Challenge Cup trip to Welsh side Ospreys.
The Argentina centre has recovered from a groin injury in time for the one-leg round-of-16 clash at Liberty Stadium, which will be shown live in the UK on both BT Sport ESPN and S4C.
The winner will earn a quarter-final trip to either Leicester Tigers or Irish province Connacht - Newcastle making a total of eight changes from the side which met Leicester in league action last weekend.
Trevor Davison, George McGuigan and Logovi’i Mulipola all return to the front row, USA lock Greg Peterson slotting back in following the birth of his second child last week. Michael Young and Brett Connon form the half-back partnership, while Tom Penny returns at full-back having missed last weekend’s Premiership assignment.
Director of rugby Dean Richards welcomed the presence of so many of his key men for the 3pm kick-off, saying: “We’ve got some boys back from injury, and probably some of our more influential boys in terms of leadership.
“It’s a knock-out situation now and we’re looking forward to that element of it, and just having that slightly different focus.
“A few of the guys have overcome injuries and niggles, and there are a few others who aren’t that far away but just missed out this time. With people like Will Welch, Micky Young, Mark Wilson and Matias Orlando now available to us we’re starting to get that experience and leadership which is so important to any team.
“We’ve put a huge onus on some of our younger players over the last few weeks, which they’ve taken well during a difficult period, and they’ll be better for that experience in the long run.”
Facing an Ospreys team who have already secured Heineken Champions Cup rugby for next season after winning away at champions Leicester in Guinness Pro 14 action, Richards is well aware that a stern test lies ahead.
“Ospreys are a good team, and they’re obviously a different side when they get their international boys back,” he said.
“It’s going to be an interesting game. Their internationals will be carrying plenty of confidence on the back of their Six Nations exploits, and we know they’ll be very well coached under a guy like Toby Booth.
“We’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain in the European Challenge Cup this season, and we’ll be throwing everything into it.”
Hopeful that the Falcons can show a positive mindset right from the first whistle, Richards added: “I just want the boys to have a bit more confidence to play, because I thought when we started doing that during the second half at Leicester we looked a decent side.
“When we experience tough starts to the game like we had last weekend it’s just a case of trying to retain that confidence, and remembering the high levels of ability we have.
“We just need to give it a go right from the start rather than waiting until we’re behind, and had we done that last weekend it could well have been a different story.
Newcastle Falcons team to face Ospreys (Saturday, 3pm, Liberty Stadium, live on BT Sport ESPN & S4C)
15 Tom Penny
14 George Wacokecoke
13 Matias Orlando
12 Pete Lucock
11 Ben Stevenson
10 Brett Connon
9 Michael Young
1 Trevor Davison
2 George McGuigan
3 Logovi'i Mulipola
4 Greg Peterson
5 Sean Robinson
6 Will Welch
7 Mark Wilson (captain)
8 Callum Chick
16 Jamie Blamire
17 Kyle Cooper
18 Mark Tampin
19 Darren Barry
20 Philip van der Walt
21 Louis Schreuder
22 Joel Matavesi
23 Morgan Passman
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 George North, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Luke Price, 9 Reuben Morgan Williams; 1 Nicky Smith, 2 Sam Parry, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 4 Adam Beard, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 6 Will Griffiths, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 8 Morgan Morris.
Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Garyn Phillips, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Rhys Davies, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Josh Thomas, 23 Mat Protheroe.
Referee: Ludovic Cayre (France).