Seven changes as Falcons head for Franklins Gardens
Alesana Tuilagi returns to the Newcastle Falcons starting line up as the club launch their LV= Cup campaign away to Northampton Saints on Saturday.
Tuilagi is one of a host of names making his return to competitive action, as Director of Rugby Dean Richards names a side showing seven personnel changes from last Fridays 26 – 30 triumph over Newport Gwent Dragons in the European Rugby Challenge Cup.
The Samoan star lines up on the left wing in a completely overhauled back division, which sees Lee Smith move from wing to full back, Tom Catterick take up position on the right wing while Danny Barnes and Jamie Helleur occupy the centre berths.
Rory Clegg earns the Fly Half jersey for the third match in succession while Mike Blair comes into the side at Scrum Half in place of Ruki Tipuna.
In the forwards, Scott Wilson comes in at tight head prop for Kieran Brookes, with the latter away with the England squad ahead of the QBE Autumn Internationals.
The front row is otherwise unchanged with Rob Vickers and Rob Hawkins remaining in situ, while in the second row, the impressive Calum Green replaces Sean Robinson, who made an assured debut for the club in Newport.
In the back row, Andy Saull remains at Openside Flanker and once again Captains the side, while Dan Temm takes over the Blindside Flank from Will Welch.
Completing the line up, Tongan back row Uili Kolo’ofai makes his first competitive start of the campaign at number 8, after impressing in his run outs during pre-season.
A well stocked bench sees Scott Lawson, Alex Rogers, Oliver Tomaszczyk, Sean Robinson, Dom Barrow, Andy Davies, Juan Pablo Socino and Simon Hammersley poised and ready to make an impact as required.
Announcing his side, Dean Richards said: "Heading into a new competition we have another chance to have a good look at some of our players and to offer the opportunity to be in the side that they have all earned."
"We have the likes of Scott Macleod, Bobby Vickers and Scott Wilson who all need some game time, we have Rory who has done very well in recent weeks and has earned the right to retain the 10 shirt and then we have Danny and Jamie in the centres who need some game time as well."
While there are a number of new faces included in the side to face Saints, Richards expects his charges to take the same positive approach to games shown in recent weeks that has earned points and plaudits for its entertaining nature.
"Although there are changes in personnel this weekend, the club's ethos and style of rugby remains the same, so we'll still be expecting the players to play with tempo and vision and to take the chances that come their way."
Saturday's game is the second time the Falcons face Saints this season, having taken on Jim Mallinder's side in mid September and the Falcons will be tasked with cutting out the mistakes that give the reigning Aviva Premiership champions a substantial head start in that match.
"Northampton are a quality side who will have a number of good players stepping in to replace their international call ups so we should expect a good game. From our perspective, we have talked about the game in September and we've identified what we need to do and how we need to just go about our own business rather than paying too much respect to the Saints."
Newcastle Falcons vs Northampton Saints 1st November 2014 – Franklins Gardens KO – 16:00
15.Lee Smith, 14. Tom Catterick, 13. Danny Barnes, 12. Jamie Helleur, 11. Alesana Tuilagi, 10. Rory Clegg, 9. Mike Blair, 1. Rob Vickers, 2. Rob Hawkins, 3. Scott Wilson, 4. Calum Green, 5. Scott Macleod, 6. Dan Temm, 7. Andy Saull (c), 8. Uili Kolo'ofai
Replacements 16. Scott Lawson, 17. Alex Rogers, 18. Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19. Sean Robinson, 20. Dom Barrow, 21. Andy Davies, 22. Juan Pablo Socino, 23. Simon Hammersley