Preview: Gloucester v Newcastle

Newcastle Falcons welcome back Toby Flood to their starting line-up for Saturday’s EDF Energy Cup trip to Gloucester, in a side showing five personnel changes and two positional switches.

Flood’s return at fly-half sees Steve Jones shift one place to inside centre for Joe Shaw, who misses the game due to illness.

The season-ending injury to Matthew Burke means in-form winger Tom May must continue his try-scoring streak from full-back as Ollie Phillips comes on to the right wing, while Hall Charlton gets a first run-out of the season at scrum-half.

In the front row a minor calf problem rules out Jon Golding as All Black Joe McDonnell returns to skipper the side from loose head prop – the only other change to the side coming at tight head where David Wilson takes the place of Micky Ward.

On the bench there could be a Falcons first team debut for England U19 full-back Alex Tait, whose elder brother Mathew is not considered for this weekend after playing in every game for England during the Rugby World Cup.

Saturday’s game will see the Falcons aim to continue their proud Cup history, having appeared in three Twickenham Cup finals in the past eight years – lifting the trophy on two occasions.

“Toby will make a difference to us as he would do to any side, simply because he’s a world class player,” said Newcastle coach John Fletcher, speaking on the decision to bring Flood straight back in to his starting XV.

“That isn’t disrespectful to the other players who have been in there, they are just at a different stage of their development. Coaching is a lot easier when you have top quality players, and Toby certainly falls in to that category.”

“Maybe if Mark Mayerhofler and Matt Burke were around this weekend we could have afforded to give Toby a week off, but then to be fair the only reason that Jonny Wilkinson and Mathew Tait aren’t involved this weekend is because they’re carrying slight knocks.”

Revealing the nature of those problems, Fletcher said: “Mat just has a bit of swelling on his knee and is generally a bit sore, but he should be okay to be involved against the Dragons next week hopefully along with Jonny.”

Form: Gloucester are riding high atop the Guinness Premiership table despite having suffered their first reversal this season at the hands of London Irish on Sunday. Gloucester have won their last fiteen matches at Kingsholm in all competitions since Agen won there in the European Cup on this weekend 12 months ago. Newcastle have slipped to successice defeats in the Premiership and the Falcons away form continues to give concern, with just one victory on the road since last November: 50-6 at Padova in the European Challenge Cup on 20 January. Newcastle won the last time the clubs met at Kingston Park in April, ending a seven match winless run for the Falcons against Gloucester. Both teams won their final two EDF Energy Cup pool matches last season but neither progressed into the semi-finals.

Gloucester: tbc

Newcastle: 15 Tom May, 14 Ollie Phillips, 13 Tim Visser, 12 Steve Jones, 11 John Rudd, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Hall Charlton, 8 Russell Winter, 7 Brent Wilson, 6 Geoff Parling, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Andy Perry, 3 David Wilson, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Joe McDonnell (c)
Replacements:16 Andy Long, 17 Micky Ward, 18 Jason Oakes, 19 Ed Williamson, 20 James Grindal, 21 Alex Tait, 22 Adam Dehaty

Date: Saturday, October 27
Venue: Kingsholm
Kick-off: 15:00 (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Brian Robertson (England)
Touch judges: Robin Goodliffe (England), Paul Dickens (England)
Television match official: Laurie Bryant (England)


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