Newcastle Falcons have named their side for Friday night’s Premiership Rugby Cup trip to Sale Sharks.
Samoan international prop Logovi’i Mulipola returns to the side at tight-head prop, Newcastle making seven changes from the team which won 34-27 at home to Wasps in last Saturday’s opening pool game.
Rob Farrar starts in the second row having made a successful comeback from injury off the bench last weekend, being partnered by USA international Greg Peterson. Gary Graham captains the team from No.8, with Adam Brocklebank coming in at loose-head prop.
Brett Connon takes the No.10 shirt with Will Haydon-Wood slotting in at inside centre – Nathan Earle coming in on the right wing as Alex Tait, fresh from scoring two tries against Wasps, drops to full-back.
George Wacokecoke pushes out onto the other wing following Iwan Stephens’ knee injury, while Newcastle’s bench could also see the return of a couple of experienced heads.
Centre Luther Burrell is in line for a first competitive appearance of the season after injuring his knee in the pre-season victory over Doncaster Knights, while back-five forward Sean Robinson is also among the replacements having recovered from knee trouble.
Defence coach Nick Easter said: “It’s great to have that mix of your up-and-coming players combined with the likes of a Gary Graham, Logo Mulipola and Alex Tait, who have been there and done it.
“The young guys will really benefit from that, and bring their energy and exuberance to the table along with all the experience of the older boys.
“Sale will pose a massive threat, and we’re expecting them to go pretty strong in terms of their selection. It’s the closest team we’ve got even though it’s two and a half hours away, so we’re looking forward to going down the road and showing what we can do.”
Asked where the Premiership Rugby Cup fits into the club’s thinking this season, the former England international added: “It’s an interesting debate regarding how the rugby calendar is structured, and whether there are too many games.
“Sometimes less is more, but on the flip side of the argument with the A-League not taking place it means clubs have got a lot of players on their books who haven’t been getting much game time.
“The Premiership Rugby Cup comes in and serves a purpose in that regard, and you want to see guys in a proper match environment rather than just watching them train for months on end.
“It actually sits quite well for us because after this fortnight of cup games we’ve got two in the Premiership, one in Europe and then a bye week leading into Christmas, so we can’t complain too much.”
No.8 Gary Graham has spoken of his honour at skippering the side for Friday’s 7.45pm kick-off, saying: “It’s the first time I’ve captained the Falcons, and the first time I’ve captained any team in a long while, to be fair.
“It was a bit of a stop-start performance last weekend against Wasps, and I’d expect it to be a stronger Sale team that we’re going to be facing. I’m sure the boys will be ready for it, because it’ll be a proper test.
“I’m the type of person who will lead from the front, but the great thing with this group is we’ve got a lot of leaders we can call on. They’ll all do their bit to pick up the boys around them, and I’m looking forward to the game.”
Newcastle Falcons team to face Sale Sharks (Friday, 7.45pm, AJ Bell Stadium)
15 Alex Tait, 14 Nathan Earle, 13 Max Wright, 12 Will Haydon-Wood, 11 George Wacokecoke, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 Robbie Smith, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Rob Farrar, 6 Josh Basham, 7 Connor Collett, 8 Gary Graham.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Tom Marshall, 21 James Blackett, 22 Luther Burrell, 23 Zach Kerr.