Newcastle Falcons Team News
Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Rob Andrew has made five changes, one positional, to his side as they prepare to host Leicester Tigers in Saturday's televised Zurich Premiership clash at Kingston Park (2.45pm).
Australian Matthew Burke moves from fullback to inside centre after previous incumbent Joe Shaw damaged ankle ligaments in last week's 31-17 loss at Gloucester.
Dave Walder comes into the side to fill the vacated fullback berth, while Hall Charlton starts ahead of former Leicester man James Grindal at scrum half.
There are two changes in the pack as Andy Long comes in at hooker for Matt Thompson, and Colin Charvis takes the place of Phil Dowson at No.8.
Tongan wing Epi Taione takes up a place on the bench, alongside 18-year-old Mathew Tait, who came on to good effect for 60 minutes at Gloucester last Saturday.
On his selection of Burke at inside centre, Andrew said: "We've lost three No.12's in Mark Mayerhofler, Joe Shaw and Mark Wilkinson. Matt was obviously one option, or we could move Tom May there and bring Mathew Tait on the wing and then there's the Jonny Wilkinson option with Dave Wlader coming to fly half.
"Although we've lost three players, one of the things we've said all summer is we've got so much quality and interchangability that we could still make a case for three or four variations in that position. The option we've taken just leaves as many people as possible insitu, and causes the least amount of disruption."
Explaining Phil Dowson's absence from the starting side, Andrew stated: "Phil's struggling a little with his knee after a knock last Saturday, so we'll have to wait and see if he's fit enough to be on the bench, although we've named him there in the meantime. Even though we're rotating the squad, we're not just doing it for the sake of doing it."
The Falcons tasted defeat for the first time this season last weekend with a 31-17 loss at Kingsholm, although Andrew believes it could help fire his charges for this Saturday's encounter.
"The guys were disappointed after losing to Gloucester, although having watched the tapes I didn't think there was a lot in it. Had we scored during that spell of pressure in the second half, we feel we could have pushed them right up to the end.
"But the main lesson learnt from that game was that we need to go out and be positive, because we didn't take the game to Gloucester as much as we know we could have done.
"It's going to be tight, we know that, but we can trouble Leicester."
Assessing his opponents, Andrew said: "They've been playing very well. If you look at their four games, perhaps the one they lost at Sale is the one we should be focusing on, because Sale were the only side to really take the game to them.
"The other three teams they've played sat back and allowed Leicester to play their own game, and if we do that on Saturday, then forget about it. In the three games they've won they've played well, and if you let them get on the front foot you're going to struggle."
Coming up against a Tigers pack containing a host of seasoned internationals will represent a big test for the Falcons eight, with Andrew saying: "It's virtually the same Leicester pack that played here last April when we drew with them, apart from Brett Deacon and George Chuter coming in.
"I think we coped well against them that day. This year we're slightly stronger upfront than we were then, but we know it will be a good test of where we're at in that area as a club.
"Leicester look as if they have one last big push in them by guys like Johnno and Neil Back, which is not meant as any disrespect because they've both had great careers. They've got no international rugby to get in their way this year, and I just think it will be a cracker of a contest all round."
Although Saturday's game is expected to be a sell-out, around 2,000 tickets still remain on sale.
However, supporters are urged to buy in advance, as the last home game against Harlequins a fortnight ago saw record ticket sales of over 2,000 on the day of the match.
Tickets can be bought in advance by calling the Falcons ticket hotline on 0871 226 60 60 during office hours, or by coming to the Kingston Park ticket office in person.
Newcastle Falcons team to face Leicester Tigers:
15 Dave Walder
14 Tom May
13 Jamie Noon
12 Matthew Burke
11 Michael Stephenson
10 Jonny Wilkinson (joint captain)
9 Hall Charlton
1 Ian Peel (joint captain)
2 Andy Long
3 Marius Hurter
4 Luke Gross
5 Stuart Grimes
6 Mike McCarthy
7 Semo Sititi
8 Colin Charvis
Leicester Tigers Team News
Leicester Tigers' head coach John Wells has made three changes for the trip to Newcastle Falcons on Saturday (kick off 2.45pm).
Martin Corry is back at No 8 in place of Will Johnson, Louis Deacon steps in for Ben Kay and John Holtby makes his second start of the season on the wing.
Holtby replaces Seru Rabeni, who is rested after scoring three tries in three appearances.
Holtby started at Sale Sharks on the opening day of the season and the 22-year-old has been handed another chance after an impressive week.
He came on as a replacement against Northampton Saints last week and created a try for Rabeni and then scored a dazzling solo effort in the Development XV's crushing of Newcastle on Monday night.
Backs coach Pat Howard said: "John has been performing well in the second team and performed well against Sale.
"We tried something else against Leeds and that worked and we kept that.
"Seru needs a break and that means John has got another chance."
14. John Holtby,
10. Ross Broadfoot,
4.Martin Johnson (capt),
Replacements to be announced.