Mark Wilson

Team news: Wilson at lock for Quins trip

Friday 24 March 2017

Mark Wilson moves forward to the second row as Newcastle Falcons shuffle their pack for Saturday’s Aviva Premiership trip to Harlequins.

The Cumbrian has missed just one of the Falcons’ 17 league games this season having been a late withdrawal from last month’s trip to Exeter through illness, the academy graduate playing every minute of every other Premiership match and topping the league’s tackle count on 191.

Wilson replaces Evan Olmstead in a move which allows Junior World Championship winner Callum Chick to start at blind-side flanker, Scott Lawson coming in at hooker as the Falcons aim for a first league win at the Twickenham Stoop in more than 17 years.

Newcastle have already defeated Harlequins once this season, Dean Richards’ men enjoying a 38-32 home victory over his former charges when the two teams met at Kingston Park Stadium back in December. The Falcons have won three of their last four meetings with the Londoners, who sit once place and six points ahead of them going into the last five rounds of regular-season action.

Newcastle’s back line is unchanged from the one which started their last outing against Saracens three weeks ago, full-back Alex Tait inching closer to his double century of appearances as the 29-year-old plays his 199th game for the club in all competitions.

Richards said: “Our home win over them will be important in terms of understanding how Harlequins play, what their individual players’ attributes are and how they play against our own game plan. We’ve analysed that during the week and we’ve put a plan together.

“Harlequins have had a lot of injuries over the last two months but they are getting most of those boys back. Likewise we’d expect them to have their Six Nations players back too, and they’ll probably have six or seven different players coming in to what they’ve been turning out over the last few games. Having said that, the boys who have played the last few games for them have done pretty well, and they have played more as a team than they had done in the previous few months.

“We understand how Harlequins play and what attributes their individual players bring to it, with the likes of Mike Brown and Danny Care coming back. We know what they offer and it’s not difficult to appreciate what they add, but it’s how we deal with it. Our attack has been outstanding throughout the last part of the season, and provided we get that right we shouldn’t be too concerned about what other people do. It’s about scoring as many points as we possibly can, and we are quite capable of doing that.”

Keen to end his side’s long wait for a league win at a sold-out Twickenham Stoop, the former Quins boss said: “We have done well down there without winning over the last couple of years, so from our side now it’s about converting that performance into a result. They’re a difficult side on home ground, we know that but we just want to turn in a good performance and get the win.

“It’s a good stadium, and having been down there for a number of years myself I know what it’s about. For us it’s not about what the atmosphere is like, it’s about what happens on the field. The boys will get on there and put everything to one side, other than what is involved in the performance.

“I’m always confident. You never prepare to fail, but ultimately you’ve got to make it happen. We’re in a good position at the moment, the boys are buzzing but we’re not going to get over-confident. We’ll just turn in a performance and see what happens.”

Insisting his side are refreshed after a three-week wait for a game, Richards said: “It’s important the boys get a little bit of time away to rest their bodies and minds. The season’s hard enough as it is with the games coming week in, week out, so when you get the opportunity to give them some time to themselves you certainly take it.

“There has been a real edge about training this week, which I’ve really enjoyed. They’re looking forward to the game, we’ve sat down and talked about what is there for us over the next five games. There could be another two on top of that if we qualify for the seventh-place play-off, and what will be will be. Our destiny is in our own hands, which is the beauty of it.”

Newcastle Falcons team to face Harlequins (Saturday, 3pm, Twickenham Stoop)

15 Alex Tait

14 Vereniki Goneva

13 Dominic Waldouck

12 Juan Pablo Socino

11 Sinoti Sinoti

10 Joel Hodgson

9 Sonatane Takulua

1 Rob Vickers

2 Scott Lawson

3 Jon Welsh

4 Calum Green

5 Mark Wilson

6 Callum Chick

7 Will Welch (captain)

8 Nili Latu

Replacements

16 Ben Sowrey

17 Ben Harris

18 David Wilson

19 Evan Olmstead

20 Ally Hogg

21 Michael Young

22 Mike Delany

23 Chris Harris

Harlequins

15 Mike Brown

14 Marland Yarde

13 Joe Marchant

12 Jamie Roberts

11 Tim Visser

10 Nick Evans

9 Danny Care

1 Joe Marler

2 Rob Buchanan

3 Will Collier

4 George Merrick

5 James Horwill

6 Chris Robshaw

7 Dave Ward (captain)

8 Mat Luamanu

Replacements

16 Joe Gray

17 Mark Lambert

18 Kyle Sinckler

19 Charlie Matthews

20 Jack Clifford

21 Charlie Mulchrone

22 Tim Swiel

23 Alofa Alofa

Referee: Tom Foley

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