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Match Preview – Newcastle vs Northampton

Last Updated: 25/04/19 3:33pm

Newcastle's Mark Wilson has not given up hope of staving off relegation

Newcastle's Mark Wilson has not given up hope of staving off relegation

Newcastle’s Mark Wilson has not given up hope of staving off relegation

Mark Wilson says that relegation-threatened Newcastle are “still in the fight” ahead of a critical Gallagher Premiership clash against Northampton.

The Falcons’ fate will be sealed by Sunday night if they lose at home to Northampton without a bonus point on Friday night and Leicester then beat Bristol and Worcester topple Gloucester.

But should they beat play-off hopefuls Saints, it would turn up the heat on 11th-placed Worcester, who are currently seven points above Newcastle, with Leicester a point better off in 10th.

Jonny May celebrates a try for Leicester in the Falcons' last outing Jonny May celebrates a try for Leicester in the Falcons' last outing

Jonny May celebrates a try for Leicester in the Falcons’ last outing

“The important thing is that we are in a scrap now, and we’ve got to get up and carry on fighting,” Newcastle and England flanker Wilson said.

“We are still in the fight – make no mistake about that. We can still have a big effect on what happens, and it’s vital we remember that.

“Obviously now, there is an element of seeing what happens in other matches, but we are doing everything possible to take care of our own end to make sure we push it right down to the wire.”

Fiji international No 8 Nemani Nagusa returns to the Newcastle side, while one other change sees Callum Chick enter the back-row equation and Wilson moves to openside flanker. John Hardie misses out because of a shoulder injury.

John Hardie, left, misses out for the Falcons due to a shoulder injury John Hardie, left, misses out for the Falcons due to a shoulder injury

John Hardie, left, misses out for the Falcons due to a shoulder injury

Newcastle rugby director Dean Richards said: “It’s a massive game – a must-win game.

“We know perfectly well where we are, what we’ve got to do and what is expected from us in terms of what we need to get out of Friday.

“Even then, you look at Worcester’s run-in to the end of the season, and it’s not that clear what they are going to get from those games.

Dean Richards acknowledges that beating Northampton is essential Dean Richards acknowledges that beating Northampton is essential

Dean Richards acknowledges that beating Northampton is essential

“There is still a lot of hope there for us, and if we win on Friday, and even if Worcester do on Sunday, there is still a chance. I think it will go right up to the last game of the season.”

Northampton are chasing a third successive Premiership away win for the first time since 2014, and victory would take them above Harlequins into fourth place.

The Saints show just two changes from the side that beat Quins a fortnight ago.

Wing Tom Collins takes over from an injured George Furbank, while centre Luther Burrell returns to action and partners Rory Hutchinson in midfield.

Saints rugby director Chris Boyd said: “It’s knockout rugby for everybody at the moment.

“I don’t think there are very many teams that can sit back and say they don’t have anything to play for in the next three games. They are crucial.”

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 1 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Rodney Ah You, 4 Calum Green, 5 Andrew Davidson, 6 Callum Chick, 7 Mark Wilson, 8 Nemani Nagusa.

Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Michael Young, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Johnny Williams.

Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 1 Francois van Wyk, 2 Reece Marshall, 3 Paul Hill, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Jamie Gibson, 7 Tom Wood, 8 Teimana Harrison.

Replacements: 16 Samson Ma’asi, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Devante Onojaife, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Andrew Kellaway.

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