Team News: Academy products get start for Falcons
Newcastle Falcons ring the changes for this Saturday’s British and Irish Cup clash with Cross Keys at Kingston Park (kick-off 3pm).
Exciting academy products Zach Kibirige and Scott Wilson are handed debuts, while new addition Warren Fury also gets the nod at scrum-half.
After a string of A League outings Alex Tait pulls on the No. 15 jersey, with Pacific Islanders Suka Hufanga and Jamie Helleur forming an intriguing partnership at the heart of the backline.
Fijian international Waisea Luveniyali has a chance to impress at fly-half, while Kibirige and Michael Tait occupy both wings.
In the pack Grant Shiells and Matt Thompson keep their place in the front-row alongside debutant Scott Wilson.
Meanwhile his namesake Mark Wilson gets a starting berth after coming off the bench to score two tries against Moseley last week.
Sean Tomes and Scott MacLeod provide the power in the engine room, and Taiasina Tu’ifua is the driving force in the back-row. Will Welch skippers the side as the Falcons launch their British and Irish Cup campaign following six out of six wins in the RFU Championship.
“We have named a younger side than before, but it is an exciting side and I am really looking forward to seeing these guys in action,” said director of rugby Dean Richards.
He added: “We have seen footage of Cross Keys, and they are a good side who like to play an expansive style of rugby.
“The strength in depth within their squad is probably higher than some of the teams in the Championship so it will be a tough game for us.”
Coming into this weekend’s cup showdown on the back of a blistering start to their season, Richards is content with his side’s recent form but insists improvements need to be made to match the intensity of the Aviva Premiership.
Richards said: “I’m pleased with how things have been going but we’re not results driven, we’re performance driven, and we’re still vying week in and week out to make sure that the performances are the right performances.
“Consistency is what we have got to improve upon and everyone is working hard to get there. We are striving to play a style of rugby that is successful within the Premiership and not just the Championship.
“A lot of the things that we are getting away with now, we wouldn’t get away with in the Premiership. Although it is effective in the Championship, we need to put in place a game-plan that would be suitable for the Premiership.
“We have decided to give a number of players a run-out as we feel that they deserve the chance to show us what they can do.”
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Michael Tait, 13 Suka Hufanga, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Waisea Luveniyali, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Taiasina Tu’ifua
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 James Hall, 18 James Hudson, 19 Chris York, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 James Fitzpatrick