Friday 9 December 2022
Tom Penny captains Newcastle Falcons on Saturday as they open their EPCR Challenge Cup campaign away to Irish province, Connacht.
The 28-year-old features at centre in a side showing ten changes from the one which started at London Irish last weekend – Adam Radwan, Matias Moroni, Greg Peterson, Sebastian de Chaves and Callum Chick all retaining their places.
Conrad Cade, Jamie Blamire and Mark Tampin freshen up the front row, with Matthew Dalton and Tom Marshall added to the back row after coming on from the bench last weekend.
Sam Stuart and Tian Schoeman, another two replacements at London Irish, form the half-back pairing, with Nathan Earle and Alex Tait adding their experience to the back three.
Spanish international Josh Peters, flanker Marcus Tiffen and scrum-half Josh Barton are all primed for their Challenge Cup debuts after being named on the bench, as is centre Ewan Greenlaw, who is studying medicine at Sunderland University.
Newcastle and Connacht are meeting for the first time since the 2015-16 season, which saw the Falcons losing 25-10 in Galway before winning 29-5 a week later on Tyneside, with head coach Dave Walder looking forward to the start of this season’s European journey.
He said: “In some respects there are similarities between ourselves and Connacht from a bigger picture point of view.
“They’re perhaps not resourced to the same extent as the other Irish provinces, they’re a little bit of an outpost geographically, they have to contend with a lot of rough weather and they’re renowned for that real collective grit.
“They’re a very well-coached team with lots of talented players, and like ourselves they now have an artificial pitch. They work really hard for each other as you’d expect, but over the past five or six years they’ve added that real quality and raised themselves quite considerably from where they’d been prior to that.
“They’ve won most of their home games this season and they get energised by playing in Galway, but we’re looking forward to going over there and testing ourselves. We’re going over there with a really positive attitude, looking to play.”
Keen to improve on last weekend’s loss at London Irish following a pair of Gallagher Premiership victories against Gloucester and Exeter, Walder believes the general curve of his team’s performance is an upward one.
“Like I said straight after the game, we just felt it was a bad day at the office,” said the head coach.
“It wasn’t a true reflection of ourselves as a team, and we didn’t show the elements of our game which we’ve been doing better over the past six or seven weeks. But we addressed it on Monday morning, put it to bed and we’ve had a good week as we look to get going in Europe.
“I said from the outset we have a new coaching group, and it’s going to take us a while to get things bedded in. One of the big things I talked about was attitude, both in training and games, and generally the lads have been brilliant with that. Nobody sets out to play badly, but in the Premiership if you take your eye off the ball even for five minutes, you’re made to pay for it.
“There have been some encouraging signs, though. Mark Laycock’s attacking structure is starting to come together, Mark Wilson’s contact work has generally seen an improvement and Micky Ward and Scott MacLeod have done a great job with the forwards. Even in defeat last weekend our line-out defence against London Irish – one of the best line-outs in the league – was right up there, and we’ve seen signs of things coming to fruition.
“We’ve still got more to do, of course, and we’re a long way from where we want to get to, but the work is going in and the results are starting to be seen.”
Expecting a stern test during Saturday’s 5.30pm kick-off in Galway, he added: “Connacht are a good side, and they’ve got the ability to move the ball around as well as having that go-forward.
“They’ve got a hard nose to them, and it’s nice to test ourselves against teams from different leagues. The Gallagher Premiership is great and we love being part of it, but everyone knows everyone there, so this tournament is a great opportunity to freshen things up and be exposed to some different opposition and environments.”
Saturday’s game is being shown live on Viaplay (formerly Premier Sports) which is a subscription channel. Click here for further details on how to access Viaplay.
Newcastle Falcons team v Connacht (Saturday, 5.30pm, Galway Sportsground)
15 Alex Tait, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Tom Penny (captain), 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Sam Stuart; 1 Conrad Cade, 2 Jamie Blamire, 3 Mark Tampin, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Matthew Dalton, 7 Tom Marshall, 8 Callum Chick.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Maddison, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Josh Peters, 20 Marcus Tiffen, 21 Josh Barton, 22 Josh Thomas, 23 Ewan Greenlaw.
Not available for selection: Phil Brantingham, Sam Clark, Connor Collett, Carl Fearns, Gary Graham, Louie Johnson, Conor Kenny, Freddie Lockwood, Pete Lucock, Logovi’i Mulipola, Matias Orlando, Sean Robinson, Oliver Spencer, Philip van der Walt, George Wacokecoke, Will Welch.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Tom Daly, 12 Cathal Forde, 11 Diarmuid Kilgallen, 10 David Hawkshaw, 9 Caolin Blade; 1 Peter Dooley, 2 Dylan Tierney-Martin, 3 Jack Aungier, 4 Josh Murphy, 5 Niall Murray, 6 Jarrad Butler (captain), 7 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 8 Paul Boyle.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Sam Illo, 19 Leva Fifita, 20 Oisín McCormack, 21 Colm Reilly, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Tom Farrell.
Referee: Luc Ramos (France).