- Northampton face Newcastle on Saturday at Stadium:MK: 1:45 pm kick-off
- Saints make three changes from the side that lost at Worcester
- The Falcons make six changes to the team that was well beaten at home to Gloucester
- Scotland World Cup prop Jon Welsh preparing for his Newcastle and Premiership debut
This afternoon’s early kick-off has paired together two sides who will be looking to bounce back from opening-day defeats as they search for a way out of the lower echelons of the embryonic Premiership table.
Northampton were on the end of a major shock as promoted Worcester made it a perfect start to life back in the top flight with a 13-12 win at Sixways, while Newcastle slumped to a concerning 39-27 home defeat to Gloucester.
The ambitions of the two sides will be varied this year as Saints try to build on their table-topping campaign last year, alongside the modest ambitions of Newcastle who will be looking to preserve their Prem status. But, after suffering defeats last time out, the two sides go into today’s game on a level playing field.
In terms of team news, Northampton make three changes from the side which lost at Worcester as George Pisi replaces the injured Tom Stephenson at centre, while Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood are set to make their return from World Cup duty with England.
Newcastle’s squad shows six changes with Scotland World Cup prop Jon Welsh preparing for his Newcastle and Premiership debut, while promising Italy winger Giovanbattista Venditti comes in.
Samoa’s Alesana Tuilagi, Tonga flanker Nili Latu, lock Josh Furno and long-serving utility forward Ally Hogg are also in the Falcons starting XV for the clash in Milton Keynes.
The home side come into the game as firm favourites, but a dogged effort is expected from the visitors after suffering disappointment last weekend.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Northampton: Courtney Lawes
Fresh from World Cup duty with England, the industrious lock or flanker has a point to prove this year. A one-club man with the Saints having made his debut for the club in 2007, there are few more experienced than the towering 26-year-old when it comes to success for Jimmies and he will be an imposing figure to call upon as his side look to recover from their shock setback last week.
Newcastle: Giovanbattista Venditti
There is much excitement surrounding the arrival of the Italian flier on Tyneside as the Falcons look to add to their attacking options out wide. Weighing at over 17 stone, Venditti, set for his first ever Premiership appearance today, has proven himself to be one of the most explosive wingers in the game and, aged just 25, looks set to be a star in the making. His summer arrival could prove to be a shrewd piece of business by the Kingston Park outfit.
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson (c), 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Jon Fisher, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 JJ Harrahan, 23 Ahsee Tuala
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Ruki Tipuna, 8 Ally Hogg (c), 7 Nili Latu, 6 Todd Clever, 5 Joshua Furno, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Eric Fry, 18 Taione Vea, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Will Welch, 21 Ruaridh Dawson, 22 Tom Catterick, 23 Tom Penny
Date: Saturday, October 24
Kick-off: 13:45 local (12:45 GMT)
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant Referees: Ashley Rowden, Andy Watson
TMO: Keith Lewis