Sale Sharks v Newcastle Falcons preview

Newcastle Falcons welcome back skipper Carl Hayman and hooker Rob Vickers to their front row for Friday’s Guinness Premiership trip to Sale Sharks.

Hayman is named in the side after missing last weekend’s home date with Leicester due to back trouble, with Vickers having withdrawn from the same game with a neck injury.

But both return to the ranks for the crucial Edgeley Park encounter, in a side which sees a further four personnel changes from that which took the field last Sunday.

Three come in the pack where line out kingpin James Hudson reclaims his starting berth, whilst Scottish prop Grant Shiells earns a start at loose head prop and Samoan international Filipo Levi packs down on the blindside flank.

The only change to the backs sees fit-again Alex Tait return from a hip injury at fullback to make his 50th appearance for the Falcons, with director of rugby Steve Bates well aware of the importance of the game.

“A win on Friday would ensure our Guinness Premiership status for next season, so it’s absolutely vital that we really attack this game and look to rubber stamp our survival before the final round of matches in a fortnight’s time.

“Regardless of the various permutations our fate is still very much in our own hands, the boys have looked sharp in training during the week and they are all excited about the challenge in what we know could be a massive game for the club.”

Having welcomed back two thirds of his injured front row trio, Bates said: “All of them missed last weekend’s match with Leicester having not recovered from injuries, and there was no certainly no element of resting them for Friday’s game.

“Fortunately Bobby Vickers’ neck injury has cleared up well and Carl Hayman looks set to be okay for kick-off, but for Jon Golding his ankle just has not responded as well as we would have hoped so he has had to miss out on this occasion. We are fortunate enough to have a very promising replacement in Grant Shiells to cover, and I am sure Grant will be looking for a repeat of what was an excellent showing against Leicester last week having played the full second half against the champions.”

With the Falcons having laid on free buses for their travelling fans, Bates added: “The away support will be absolutely crucial.

“I remember when we played down in Bristol last season the club tried a similar initiative which really swelled the numbers of fans making the trip, and contributed to a fantastic atmosphere which definitely lifted the boys.

“Even with the buses being free we realise that many of our supporters have had to give up their holidays or lose a day’s work to come and cheer us on down in Stockport. From myself and the entire playing staff we appreciate the sacrifices you are making to come down and back us on the night, and hopefully with a strong away following we can repay your support with a big result.”

The two teams drew 16-all at Kingston Park in round two, whilst Newcastle have won on two of their last three visits to Edgeley Park.

Sale Sharks have won just two of their last 13 matches in all competitions since New Year’s Day.

The Sharks have won two of their last three games at Edgeley Park, against Worcester and London Wasps.

Newcastle Falcons’ only victory in their last eleven encounters in all competitions was 25-13 at home to Gloucester in the Guinness Premiership on 31 March.

The Falcons have won three times on the road in the Premiership this season: at Bath, London Irish and London Wasps.

Lee Thomas returns to the Sale Sharks team to face Newcastle Falcons in the ‘St.George’s Day Special’ game and included on the replacements’ list is England Under-20 prop Lee Imiolek.

Looking ahead to the meeting with the Falcons, Sale Sharks’ Director of Rugby Kingsley Jones said, “We all realise the challenge that this game presents.

“Games be

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