Newcastle Falcons have stuck with a winning formula for Friday night’s Gallagher Premiership home game against Sale Sharks, retaining the same starting XV from last weekend’s opening-day victory at Bath.
The only change from the match-day 23 which earned a 19-12 triumph at The Rec comes on the bench, where Darren Barry has recovered from injury to take up a spot as second-row cover.
Insisting his players have not gone overboard in their reaction to last week’s result in their first competitive match for eight and a half months, director of rugby Dean Richards said: “It was great to finally have the opportunity of being back out there, but, like anything, you can’t rest on your laurels.
“The players all understand that, we’ve all parked last week now and everyone is looking forward to what we know is a massive game on Friday night against a very good Sale Sharks side. We’ve still got work to do on our game and nobody is getting carried away after one win.
“Last weekend has given us a huge amount of belief, but at the same time it’s a fine balance between that and being over-confident.
“You can’t over-react to a victory, just as you don’t over-react to a defeat – you just need to have this consistent understanding of what it takes to win each time you take the field.”
The last time Newcastle and Sale met was at St James’ Park in March 2019 when the Falcons ground out a 22-17 triumph in front of more than 27,000 supporters, and Richards is full of respect for his northern rivals.
“Our first three games are all against clubs who finished in the top five last season, and I think everyone would agree Sale were a genuine semi-final team but for the cancellation of their last game due to Covid,” he said.
“They bring enormous physicality, it will be a step up from last weekend and we need to be ready for that. Steve Diamond and his team do a great job over there, they’ve got a really strong squad at their disposal and it’s an exciting challenge for us to be going up against them.
“Our guys are realistic, they understand where they are and they have clarity about the next task in front of them. Last weekend’s result makes for a happy camp, but it’s quite quickly been put to one side just to allow us to crack on with preparing for Sale Sharks.”
Sparing a thought for the Falcons faithful who will be following from afar, the director of rugby added: “It’s desperately sad that our supporters can’t be here to see the game in person because they make such a difference, and we relish giving them that enjoyment. But it’s the new normal, and unfortunately we just have to get on with it for the time being.
“We know they’ll be watching on the TV, listening on the radio or following on social media, and we appreciate all the messages they continue to send. Of course we look forward to the day when we can get them back inside the stadium to cheer on the boys, and they are certainly in our thoughts the whole time.”
Newcastle Falcons team to face Sale Sharks (Friday, 7.45pm, Kingston Park Stadium, live on BT Sport)
15 Tom Penny
14 Adam Radwan
13 Luther Burrell
12 Toby Flood
11 Ben Stevenson
10 Brett Connon
9 Michael Young (captain)
1 Trevor Davison
2 George McGuigan
3 Logovi’i Mulipola
4 Greg Peterson
5 Marco Fuser
6 Sean Robinson
7 Connor Collett
8 Gary Graham
16 Jamie Blamire
17 Adam Brocklebank
18 Mark Tampin
19 Darren Barry
20 Josh Basham
21 Sam Stuart
22 Joel Hodgson
23 Pete Lucock
Sale Sharks: 15. Luke James, 14. Denny Solomona, 13. Sam James, 12. Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11. Simon Hammersley, 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Faf De Klerk; 1. Valerey Morozov, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. James Phillips, 6. Jean-Luc du Preez 7. Ben Curry (captain), 8. Daniel du Preez
Replacements: 16. Curtis Langdon, 17. Bevan Rodd, 18. Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19. Matt Postlethwaite, 20. Sam Dugdale 21. Will Cliff, 22. Rob du Preez, 23. Marland Yarde.
Referee: Wayne Barnes