Scotland prop Jon Welsh will make his comeback from injury on Saturday when Newcastle Falcons meet Greene King IPA Championship side Nottingham at Darlington Mowden Park’s Northern Echo Arena (kick-off 3pm).
Welsh has been sidelined with a toe injury since January and forms part of a side skippered by fly-half Mike Delany. Former Scotland flanker Tyrone Holmes makes his starting debut on the open-side flank after signing from Glasgow Warriors - fit-again Samoan star Sinoti Sinoti starting on the wing.
Hooker Ben Sowrey, lock Nick Civetta and scrum-half Sam Egerton all make their first appearances after joining the club in the summer, fellow new arrival Evan Olmstead set to come on as one of 11 replacements on an extended bench.
Director of rugby Dean Richards said: “A number of our new signings will be featuring in what will certainly be a competitive fixture.
“In terms of those not involved, Vereniki Goneva came back from Fiji duty with a little bit of a calf strain. We will try and get him out for the last pre-season game against Edinburgh, and if not then the following week. Micky Young has a similar calf strain picked up on England Saxons’ tour to South Africa so we are looking after him a bit too, and Rob Vickers is carrying a bit of a hamstring.”
Keen to get a first competitive glimpse of his squad in action, the Falcons boss said: “We have got a number of things that we want to try – whether that be our shape, our personnel, and there are a lot of things we want to see in a match scenario. We have nothing to lose other than a bit of pride, and it is a great opportunity to go out there and have a real go.
“Nottingham are a good team and they fared well in the Championship last season. It will be the same against Doncaster the following week, and they are two great tests for us.
“This is our first game of pre-season and it is not going to be the finished product. From a rugby perspective we have only been together properly for a couple of weeks, and a lot of the work we have done has been on the strength and conditioning side. The reason we put such an emphasis on that is because the season is so long. You have to get the guys built up and durable enough to last the season, and if you don’t then the players won’t be able to do that.”
Having taken the fixture to the Northern Echo Arena, Richards explained: “We have a good association with Darlington Mowden Park as a club, some of our players get game-time down there but the bigger picture for us is acknowledging our supporters who live in that part of our region.
“We have a lot of followers in County Durham and North Yorkshire, just as we do in Cumbria and in Scotland. During the course of our pre-season we play games in Newcastle, Darlington, Edinburgh and Galashiels, so between those fixtures hopefully the full breadth of our fan base will be able to see us in action.”
Tickets for Saturday’s game are priced £10 for adults and £5 for juniors by calling 0871 226 6060. Tickets are also available from Darlington Mowden Park in advance and on the day.
Newcastle Falcons team v Nottingham:
15 Simon Hammersley
14 Chris Harris
13 Belisario Agulla
12 Juan Pablo Socino
11 Sinoti Sinoti
10 Mike Delany (captain)
9 Sam Egerton
1 Jon Welsh
2 Ben Sowrey
3 Taione Vea
4 Calum Green
5 Nick Civetta
6 Mark Wilson
7 Tyrone Holmes
8 Callum Chick