Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons Premiership Preview

Leicester Tigers host Newcastle Falcons at Welford Road

Leicester Tigers have named Logovi’i Mulipola, Mathew Tait and Opeti Fonua in their team to play Newcastle Falcons at Welford Road in the Aviva Premiership.

Samoa international prop Mulipola joins Harry Thacker and Fraser Balmain in the Tigers front row, with Ed Slater joining Dom Barrow at lock. Tom Croft and Laurence Pearce return to the back row alongside Lachlan McCaffrey.

In the backline, scrum-half Jono Kitto comes in for his first start for the club, and Telusa Veainu switches to the wing with Tait at full-back.

Fonua is one of six internationals among the replacements as he returns for the first time since suffering a broken bone in his arm in the Round 3 win over Wasps.

Saturday’s game is not scheduled for live television coverage so the only place to follow all of the action is at Welford Road.

Welford Road hosts its first Boxing Day clash since Bedford Blues were the visitors in Premiership Rugby in 1998.

The Tigers have lost only one of their ten fixtures in all tournaments this season: 6-19 at Exeter on 7th November.

The Tigers solitary defeat at Welford Road in Aviva Premiership Rugby since November 2013 was when London Irish were the visitors on 27th September 2014.

Newcastle Falcons are without a victory in Premiership Rugby this season, although they did draw 15- all at Sale in round 5 and have won both of their home games in Europe.

The Falcons have not been victorious on the road in any tournament since their trip to London Irish in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in February.

Leicester have won their last ten encounters with Newcastle in Premiership Rugby since the Falcons 14- 10 victory at Kingston Park in March 2009.

The Tynesiders only previous Premiership victory at Welford Road came on 30th December 1997 – the occasion of Dean Richards’ 314th and final first-team
game for the Tigers.

Newcastle Falcons have handed an Aviva Premiership debut to fly half Craig Willis in this weekend’s match.

The 20 year old half back has been making steady progress throughout the season, having guided the club through their Kings of the North Campaign in that position and the two European Rugby Challenge Cup fixtures against Connacht.

Willis is one of only four changes to the starting line up from the last league game against Saracens, although a number of personnel have made positional changes ahead of the weekend’s game.

Fresh from eye catching stints in the European competition, Simon Hammersley make a first Premiership start since November 1st at fullback, with Alex Tait moving across to the right wing position.

The ever developing Belisario Agulla moves a position in field to take up the outside centre berth alongside Chris Harris, while leading Challenge Cup try scorer Marcus Watson continues on the left wing.

Partnering Willis in the half backs, Michael Young will again provide service to an exciting backline from scrum half.

In the pack, Rob Vickers, George McGuigan and Jon Welsh will again pack down in the front row, following on from two committed showings in the last two league games.

Sean Robinson’s impressive rise continues as he retains his post in the second row, alongside new partner Mark Wilson, who moves up from his usual berth on the back row.

The Cumbrian’s move into the engine room sees Ally Hogg take to the blindside flank, while captain Will Welch and Nili Latu remain on the openside flank and at number eight respectively.

The replacements bench continue the settled theme, with Scott Lawson, Alex Rogers and Taione Vea providing front row options, with Mouritz Botha and Todd Clever covering the second and back rows.

Tane Takulua continues as replacement scrum half, while Tom Catterick and Juan Pablo Socino complete the matchday 23.

Match : Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons
Date : Saturday 26 December
Kick Off : 3pm
Venue : Welford Road,
Match Officials
Referee : Tim Wigglesworth (99th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Darren Gamage & Kelvin Stewart.
TMO: Rowan Kitt


Leicester Tigers

15 Mathew Tait , 14 Telusa Veainu , 13 Peter Betham , 12 Matt Smith, 11 Vereniki Goneva , 10 Freddie Burns , 9 Jono Kitto, 1 Logovi’i Mulipola , 2 Harry Thacker, 3 Fraser Balmain, 4 Dom Barrow, 5 Ed Slater (c), 6 Tom Croft , 7 Lachlan McCaffrey, 8 Laurence Pearce

Replacements : 16 Tom Youngs , 17 Matias Aguero , 18 Dan Cole , 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Opeti Fonua , 21 Ben Youngs , 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Seremaia Bai

Newcastle Falcons

15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Belisario Agulla, 12 Chris Harris, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Craig Willis, 9 Michael Young, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Jon Welsh, 4 Mark Wilson, 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (C), 8 Nili Latu

Replacements : 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Taione Vea, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Todd Clever, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Tom Catterick, 23 Juan Pablo Socino

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