Friday 20 January 2023
Philip van der Walt starts for Newcastle Falcons on Saturday as they host Irish province Connacht in the EPCR Challenge Cup.
The 5.30pm kick-off at Kingston Park sees Newcastle playing the final one of their four group games in the competition, with Van der Walt making his first start since injuring his knee in May. The South African came off the bench during the second half of last weekend’s trip to Cardiff, and forms part of a side showing eight changes.
Tucuman try machine Mateo Carreras returns on the left wing, with Alex Tait starting at full-back in place of the suspended Elliott Obatoyinbo, who was shown a red card last time out.
Michael Young captains the side from scrum-half, while there are five changes to the Falcons’ forward pack.
A full new front row sees Logovi’i Mulipola, Jamie Blamire and Trevor Davison in from the start, with Sebastian de Chaves returning to the second row.
Argentina international Pedro Rubiolo is set to make his home debut from the bench after coming on last weekend in Wales, while back-five forward Freddie Lockwood is poised to return from an ankle injury.
Newcastle are in a five-way fight for the last remaining spot in the round of 16, with Perpignan, Brive, Zebre and Bath also vying for the knock-out place.
Head coach Dave Walder said: “We’re in a bit of a strange position in that we really want to go through in the competition and have named a strong team, but by the time the game comes around results elsewhere might mean we’re already eliminated.
“We can’t worry about that – all we can do is just look to play well and win our game, and then we’ll deal with whatever does or doesn’t happen from there.
“It’s slightly strange that we’re still in a position to go through to the knock-out rounds despite losing all three of our games so far, but if by the time our game kicks off we’re still alive in the competition we’ll do everything in our power to make sure we do what we need to qualify.
“It could be the case that results in other games have cut that avenue off to us, but we still want to play well in front of our home fans, give them a performance to be proud of and use it to build towards the games we have left this season.
“From a mind-set and preparation point of view it’s actually really simple despite all the various permutations flying around. We just want to play well and give a true account of ourselves against a very good Connacht side.”
Newcastle were beaten 22-8 when they travelled to Galway last month, with Walder saying: “We’re definitely not taking anything for granted because Connacht are a dangerous outfit who have done well so far in the competition, and they’ll provide a big test for us.
“They’re really well coached, they have threats right throughout the team and it will be a good game.
“We were disappointed by how we went last weekend down at Cardiff. At 14-3 down we had a big overlap but threw an interception, so instead of being 14-10 it was 21-3, and when we then had a man sent off just before half-time it was always going to be really difficult from there.
“As always there’ll be a big emphasis on securing our possession, especially with the way Connacht compete at the set-piece. They’ve got lots of strings to their bow, but if we stay to our systems and don’t give them a chink of light then we’re in with a much stronger chance of shutting down their play-makers and strike runners.”
Newcastle’s preparation has this week included a visit from cricketing icon Ben Stokes, with the England test captain spending more than an hour taking questions from Falcons players and staff.
“He had a lot of really interesting things to say, based on being positive in everything you do and having a really aggressive mind-set,” said Walder, himself a former England Schools cricket captain.
“He was talking about having a belief and a philosophy, and sticking to it regardless of outside noises. He’s a really impressive bloke, as you’d expect, and it was just something different for the players and staff which really got them engaged.”
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Newcastle Falcons team v Connacht (Saturday, 5.30pm, Kingston Park)
15 Alex Tait, 14 Ben Stevenson, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Pete Lucock, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Michael Young (captain); 1 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 Jamie Blamire, 3 Trevor Davison, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Gary Graham, 7 Philip van der Walt, 8 Carl Fearns.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Maddison, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Freddie Lockwood, 20 Pedro Rubiolo, 21 Josh Barton, 22 Josh Thomas, 23 Adam Radwan.
Not available for selection: Callum Chick, Sam Clark, Connor Collett, Brett Connon, Matthew Dalton, Matt Deehan, Tom Marshall, Matias Moroni, Elliott Obatoyinbo, Guy Pepper, Tom Penny, Sean Robinson, Oliver Spencer, George Wacokecoke, Will Welch.
Referee: Pierre-Baptiste Nuchy (France).
Irish name side for west London derby
Declan Kidney has confirmed the squad for Sunday’s derby clash with Harlequins at the Gtech Community Stadium in Round 16 of the Gallagher Premiership (3pm kick-off).
Will Goodrick-Clarke, Agustin Creevy and Oliver Hoskins are in the front row, with Rob Simmons and Adam Coleman in the second row.
Matt Rogerson captains the side from the six jersey and is joined in the back row by Tom Pearson and Chandler Cunningham-South.
Ben White and Paddy Jackson link up to form the halfback duo, and Rory Jennings partners Benhard van Rensburg in the centres.
Michael Dykes, Lucio Cinti and James Stokes complete the line-up as the back three.
“Whenever these two clubs pitch up against one another, it always creates a good game of rugby,” said Declan Kidney, Director of Rugby.
“I know that we are expecting a good crowd at the Gtech Community Stadium on Sunday, and they will inevitably create a great atmosphere.
“We need to make sure that we put in a full 80-minute performance to give our supporters a reason to show their voice. Harlequins are a well-drilled side, and we know it will be a difficult challenge this weekend, but one we look forward to.”
15 James Stokes, 14 Lucio Cinti, 13 Benhard van Rensburg, 12 Rory Jennings, 11 Michael Dykes, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben White, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 2 Agustin Creevy, 3 Oliver Hoskins, 4 Rob Simmons, 5 Adam Coleman, 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Tom Pearson, 8 Chandler Cunningham-South.
16 Mike Willemse, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Henry Arundell.
Baxter issues Moon injury update
By Mark Stevens
Rob Baxter says he cannot give a timescale as to when prop Ben Moon will return to the Exeter Chiefs match-day squad.
The 33-year-old forward is currently Exeter’s longest-serving player, having made his debut in 2008 away to Sedgley Park, and is the last remaining member of their 2009-10 promotion squad.
The England international, however, has not featured for the Devon club since coming off the bench against Munster in last April’s Heineken Champions Cup clash at Sandy Park.
Asked by the media this week about Moon, the Chiefs’ Director of Rugby said: “I wouldn’t hold out hope that he’s going to be appearing soon. It’s been a challenge for Ben for a little period of time now, it’s not just been this season.
“He’s had periods in and out with it, it’s something that’s been affecting him for a little while and because of what it is we just have to be very careful with it.”
Moon has featured in all six of Exeter’s Premiership final appearances at Twickenham – and he also played in the 2020 European Champions Cup final win over Racing 92, and Exeter’s first major final when they beat Northampton Saints to win the 2014 LV Cup.
Moon won eight England caps in the 2018-19 season, but did not make the squad for that autumn’s World Cup in Japan.
“He’s still active around the club, he’s still here, he’s in training, he’s continuing very hard with his rehab and getting everything else he can right, but we’ve just got to be really careful around that neck.
“It’s probably one of those things where it’s getting to the stage where there’s not a lot more we can do. I can’t talk for Ben about his future, but you’re not going to see him in the immediate future on the pitch.”
TEAM NEWS – Sale Sharks v Bath Rugby
South African talisman Rob du Preez is set to make his 100th Sharks appearance whilst Alex Groves is in line for his Gallagher Premiership debut as Alex Sanderson names his side to face Bath Rugby at the AJ Bell Stadium tomorrow night. (Kick-off 7:45pm – Live on BT Sport)
Sanderson makes seven changes to the Sale starting line-up as his squad returns to Gallagher Premiership action following defeat at the hands of Ulster in the Champions Cup.
In the forwards, there is a complete change of the Sharks front-row as Simon McIntyre, Tommy Taylor and Nick Schonert all return to face Bath.
Cobus Wiese links back up with Josh Beaumont in the second row following a one-match suspension for a dangerous tackle in the Sharks’ clash with Toulouse two weeks ago.
Jono Ross captains the side in the absence of Ben Curry, whilst Sam Dugdale steps in to replace the flanker after his England call up to Steve Borthwick’s England squad. Jean-Luc du Preez retains the number 8 shirt with twin-brother Dan remaining on the side lines due to an ongoing hand injury.
Gus Warr continues to provide a platform for success at scrum-half and links up with centurion Rob du Preez, who is named at fly-half.
The ever-present Sam James retains the thirteen shirt with Ryan Mills picked at inside centre in the absence of Manu Tuilagi. The former Wasps centre is one of two changes in the Sharks’ back line.
Sanderson’s second change in the backs comes in the form of Tom Roebuck, who replaces Arron Reed on the wing after an impressive cameo in the Champions Cup. Tom O’Flaherty is named on the other wing, with exciting academy graduate Joe Carpenter at full-back.
On the bench, Ewan Ashman, Ross Harrison and Joe Jones are named as front-row replacements, with Alex Groves and Rouban Birch providing further cover for the forwards. Raffi Quirke, Luke James and Arron Reed cover the backs.
Sale Sharks Starting XV:
15. Joe Carpenter, 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Sam James, 12. Ryan Mills, 11. Tom O’Flaherty, 10. Robert du Preez, 9. Gus Warr; 1. Simon McIntyre, 2. Tommy Taylor, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. Josh Beaumont, 6. Jono Ross (c), 7. Sam Dugdale, 8. Jean-Luc du Preez
16. Ewan Ashman, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Joe Jones, 19. Alex Groves, 20. Rouban Birch, 21. Raffi Quirke, 22. Luke James, 23. Arron Reed
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