Newcastle Falcons v London Irish Premiership Preview

Newcastle Falcons host London Irish at Kingston Park

London Irish have named Alex Lewington on the wing for Sunday’s crunch Aviva Premiership clash with Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park

The London Irish flyer has missed his side’s last three games in all competitions through injury, and his inclusion in the starting XV is a welcome boost for the Exiles going into the contest.

Lewington is one of two changes to the side that locked horns with Sale Sharks in the Exiles’ last Premiership outing earlier this month, Jebb Sinclair getting the nod in the back-row alongside openside flanker Blair Cowan.

The Canadian international comes in for Ofisa Treviranus who is named amongst the replacements, with skipper Luke Narraway switching to number-eight.

“Alex Lewington has been one of our form players this year and I’m pleased to have him back in the side for this weekend,” said Head Coach Tom Coventry.

“He has been very exciting on the wing and London Irish runs through his blood, so he is pretty happy to be back,” he added.

A four point gap separates the Exiles from their North East counterparts ahead of the trip to Kingston Park. Coventry is satisfied with preparations as Irish head north, saying: “We have had a good week in training and the lads have worked on the processes that we need to put in place in order to be successful this weekend.

“Newcastle are very tough upfront and they have a good set-piece which has worked well for them all year, so we are well aware of what to expect in that department.”

Newcastle Falcons have lost their last six Aviva Premiership Rugby matches since beating Northampton by a single point in 51 at Kingston Park on 21st February.

The Falcons have lost their last two home matches and have not lost three in succession at the venue since 2014.

London Irish have won just once in the last eight rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby: 23-18 at home to Gloucester in round 17.

The Exiles have won only once on the road in any tournament since February 2015, 31-17 at Agen in the European Challenge Cup on 23rd January.

London Irish have won their last four Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters against the Falcons since Newcastle’s 30-11 at Kingston Park in October 2013.

Newcastle have named Gonzalo Tiesi to make his makes his first senior appearance in more than a year having missed the entire campaign through injury but returns in time for a game which is expected to see a season-high crowd.

The Argentinean is one of four changes from the side which faced Harlequins last time out. Tiesi and countryman Juan Pablo Socino form a new-look midfield partnership, Tiesi making his playing comeback three weeks ago with a full 80 minutes in the Falcons’ bonus-point victory at Gloucester as they secured an Aviva A-League semi-final place.

Simon Hammersley returns at full-back as Alex Tait moves up to the wing, Sinoti Sinoti making way after missing the match through injury.

In the pack there is just one personnel change as Sean Robinson’s return to the second row sees Mark Wilson move to the blind-side flank, director of rugby Dean Richards well aware of the stakes as his side aim to take a massive step closer to securing their top-flight status.

Richards said: “In some respects you would want it to be like any other week, but everybody is billing it to be slightly different. Having said that, we are four points clear of them with two games left after this weekend, so the pressure really is on London Irish.”

Aiming for keep cool heads and a positive mind-set, he added: “In desperate times people do desperate things, and there is no doubt about the fact that when London Irish come up here they will be throwing the kitchen sink and everything else at it. From our point of view it is understanding what they bring to the table, going out there and delivering a win. To do that we need to deliver a performance which is controlled, and yet at the same time shows the ambition to go out there and win.”

Making no attempt to shirk the importance of the fixture and the responsibility which rests on his own shoulders, Richards said: “It comes with the job, the territory, and you just have to accept that. It is of course important to keep Aviva Premiership rugby in the North East, and we and the players understand that importance. Everybody wants to be up there, and players look forward to these kinds of big games.

“There is a real excitement in the camp about this fixture, there really is. And not in a way whereby it is over the top. It is knowing that it is a big game, and knowing that the nerves and excitement go hand in hand with that in the lead-up to big games. It is nice to see.”

The Bookies have given London Irish a 5 point start for this Match – with an offer of up to £200 in Bonus bets.

Match : Newcastle Falcons v London Irish
Date : Sunday 17 April
Venue : Kingston Park,
Kick Off : 3pm
Live on: BT Sport
Match Officials
Referee :Wayne Barnes (167th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan & Paul Burton.
TMO: Graham Hughes.

Teams

Newcastle

15 Simon Hammersley , 14 Alex Tait , 13 Gonzalo Tiesi , 12 Juan Pablo Socino , 11 Marcus Watson , 10 Mike Delany , 9 Michael Young , , 1 Rob Vickers , 2 George McGuigan , 3 Taione Vea , 4 Calum Green , 5 Sean Robinson , 6 Mark Wilson , 7 Will Welch (captain) , 8 Nili Latu

Replacements : 16 Scott Lawson , 17 Alex Rogers , 18 Mike Cusack , 19 Mouritz Botha , 20 Ally Hogg , 21 Sonatane Takulua , 22 Craig Willis , 23 Chris Harris

London Irish

15 Sean Maitland, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Andrew Fenby, 10 Greig Tonks, 9 Scott Steele, 1 Tom Court, 2 David Paice, 3 Halani Aulika, 4 Will Lloyd, 5 Matt Symons, 6 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Luke Narraway (c)

Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Tom Smallbone, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Jerry Sexton, 20 Ofisa Treviranus, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma

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