Preview: London Irish v Newcastle

England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson will line up for Newcastle Falcons in their Guinness Premiership appointment with London Irish on Saturday.

Wilkinson, set to spearhead England’s bid for Six Nations success against title favourites France eight days later, is joined on starting duty by Test colleagues Mathew Tait and Toby Flood at the Madejski Stadium.

Flood, Wilkinson’s fly-half understudy for club and country, will wear an unfamiliar number 11 shirt.

“Toby is obviously not going to play that much on the wing, although he will be there at times,” said Newcastle coach, John Fletcher.

“We just want our good players on the pitch, to be honest, and depending on what move we are playing, they will alternate positions as we would normally do.

“We are not doing anything different to any other week. The main thing is they are all starting in the back-line, regardless of what number they wear.

“People tend to get a bit too emotional about shirt numbers, and especially in the backs we have very few specialist players, so it is not that relevant.”

As for playing his England stars between Six Nations games, Fletcher added: “We made the decision at the start of the season that when our England players are available we will play them.”

Wilkinson started the 43-13 defeat against Ireland in Dublin last weekend, while Flood and Tait were among the replacements.

London Irish: tbc

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Matthew Burke (c), 14 Tom May, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Jamie Noon, 11 Toby Flood, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 James Grindal, 8 Russell Winter
7 Ben Woods, 6 Geoff Parling, 5 Jason Oakes, 4 Mark Sorenson, 3 Micky Ward, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Joe McDonnell
Replacements: 16 Jon Golding, 17 Andy Long, 18 Andy Buist, 19 Brent Wilson, 20 Ollie Phillips, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Loki Crichton

Date: Saturday 3 March
Venue: Madejski Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Ashley Rowden
Touch judges: Andy Watson, Roger Baileff
Television match official: Laurie Bryant

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