Team news: Welch skippers Falcons in The Big One

Friday 23 March 2018

Newcastle Falcons have named their team for The Big One at St James’ Park on Saturday, as they take on Northampton Saints at the home of Newcastle United.

A club record home crowd is already assured with more than 27,000 tickets sold for the 5.30pm kick-off, Newcastle native Will Welch captaining the Falcons at a stadium he used to frequent as a child.

“My dad had a couple of season tickets for Newcastle United when I was growing up, so I used to go on the Gallowgate End fairly regularly,” said Welch, who became the Falcons’ youngest ever club captain six seasons ago.

“It’s an amazing stadium and it will be great to see so many Falcons fans there on Saturday. The people in our region have really backed us with the way they’ve snapped up the tickets and it should be a great day.”

Welch is joined in the back row by Canadian international Evan Olmstead and Tonga’s most-capped player, Nili Latu, who played at St James’ Park during Rugby World Cup 2015.

Fly-half Toby Flood starts at the stadium where he was a Newcastle United ball-boy in his youth, saying: “It’s an iconic venue with an incredible atmosphere, and it’s great that the Falcons are taking a game there.

“Ultimately it’s an Aviva Premiership match like any other so the guys need to try and not be distracted by all the other stuff going on around it, but a big crowd really getting behind the team will make it a special occasion.

“We’ve got 50 Premiership points on the board with five rounds to go, plus a home quarter-final in Europe, we can just have a swing at it and see where it takes us. That’s a great position to be in and reflects an enormous amount of hard work from top to bottom within the club.”

Geordie prop Trevor Davison starts on the tight-head side with Jon Welsh having picked up an injury in the Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final at Exeter, Kyle Cooper aiming to continue his free-scoring form at hooker after dotting down five tries in his last six games.

Newcastle were 24-22 winners the last time they played Northampton and are on a run of four straight league victories over the Saints, not that director of rugby Dean Richards is taking them lightly.

“Northampton are a quality outfit and their position in the table doesn’t tell the full story,” said the Falcons boss.

“They’ve got quality in every position, they have a bit of X-factor and our boys will have to be on their money to get the result. That said, we’re in a strong position in the table, we have a lot of confidence within the camp and we will be able to draw upon a huge crowd thanks to the support we have received from right around our region.”

On Saturday’s venue, Richards said: “St James’ Park really is one of the truly iconic stadiums in British sport, and certainly in these parts. I’ve been there for Newcastle United games, Rugby World Cup and rugby league Magic Weekend, and it’s just an incredible venue.

“I’m sure our guys will show a great focus and really rise to the challenge, they’ve done it many times already this season and it’s an enormously exciting time to be involved with the club right now.”

Tickets for Saturday’s game are available by clicking here or calling 0844 372 1892.

Newcastle Falcons team to face Northampton Saints (Saturday, 5.30pm, St James’ Park, live on BT Sport)

15 Simon Hammersley

14 Vereniki Goneva

13 Chris Harris

12 Josh Matavesi

11 Sinoti Sinoti

10 Toby Flood

9 Michael Young

1 Sam Lockwood

2 Kyle Cooper

3 Trevor Davison

4 Calum Green

5 Sean Robinson

6 Evan Olmstead

7 Will Welch (captain)

8 Nili Latu

Replacements

16 Scott Lawson

17 Rob Vickers

18 Scott Wilson

19 Will Witty

20 Ally Hogg

21 Sam Stuart

22 Joel Hodgson

23 Maxime Mermoz

Northampton Saints

15 Ahsee Tuala

14 Nafi Tuitavake

13 Rob Horne

12 Piers Francis

11 George North

10 Stephen Myler

9 Nic Groom

1 Campese Ma’afu

2 Mikey Haywood

3 Kieran Brookes

4 Api Ratuniyawara

5 Christian Day (captain)

6 David Ribbans

7 Jamie Gibson

8 Ben Nutley

Replacements

16 Reece Marshall

17 Francois van Wyk

18 Jamal Ford-Robinson

19 Michael Paterson

20 Mitch Eadie

21 Cobus Reinach

22 Harry Mallinder

23 Ben Foden

Referee: JP Doyle

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