Team news: Goneva back for The Big One
Friday 22 March 2019
Gallagher Premiership Player of the Season Vereniki Goneva returns for Newcastle Falcons at St James’ Park on Saturday as they meet Sale Sharks in ‘The Big One’.
The Fijian wowed the crowd during last season’s fixture at the home of Newcastle United with his Alan Shearer try celebration and, having overcome a calf injury, now forms part of a side heading out in search of their third successive league victory following wins over Wasps and Worcester Warriors.
England flanker Mark Wilson captains the team having played in all of his country’s Six Nations games, Scotland centre Chris Harris also slotting back in after shining in last weekend’s Calcutta Cup thriller at Twickenham.
Fiji No 8 Nemani Nagusa earns a start having impressed from the bench at Wasps a fortnight ago, scoring one try and creating another as the Falcons narrowed the gap between themselves and top-flight safety to just three points going into the final six rounds.
Open-side John Hardie comes in as the only other change, the Scotland flanker earning man-of-the-match honours during his last game at St James’ Park when his country defeated Samoa there in a Rugby World Cup classic.
The Falcons’ only previous outing at the home of Newcastle United a year ago almost trebled the club’s record crowd when 30,174 supporters witnessed their 25-22 home victory over Northampton Saints, with strong sales figures again being shown for Saturday’s 5.30pm kick-off.
A free fan plaza will be in place behind the Gallowgate End from 12 noon, director of rugby Dean Richards looking forward to the occasion.
“St James’ Park is an incredible venue, it will be a big home crowd and a really special day for the boys,” said the former England and Lions star.
“An important aspect will be our mental preparation and how we deal with everything going on around the game, but the mood in the camp is really positive and everyone is just looking forward to it.”
Granting full respect to Saturday’s opponents, Richards added: “Sale Sharks are having a good season, they are very well coached by Steve Diamond and his staff and they are in the top half of the table on merit.
“They will definitely offer us tough opposition but we feel like we are in a good place at the moment – the boys are enjoying their rugby, we’re starting to get guys back from injury and internationals and there is a great buzz around the club.
“We’ve got six games left during a crucial run-in to the Gallagher Premiership season and still a bit of ground to make up, but we’re carrying form with us at the moment.
“Saturday is another opportunity for us to continue that resurgence in front of a big crowd at a tremendous venue, and we’d urge as many people as possible to come down and be part of a great occasion.”
Tickets for The Big One are available by clicking here or calling 0344 372 1892. Tickets will also be available to buy from St James’ Park on the day but will incur an additional £5 charge to those purchased before match-day.
Newcastle Falcons team to face Sale Sharks (Saturday, 5.30pm, St James’ Park)
15 Simon Hammersley
14 Vereniki Goneva
13 Chris Harris
12 Josh Matavesi
11 Sinoti Sinoti
10 Toby Flood
9 Sonatane Takulua
1 Sam Lockwood
2 George McGuigan
3 Logovi'i Mulipola
4 Calum Green
5 Andrew Davidson
6 Mark Wilson (captain)
7 John Hardie
8 Nemani Nagusa
16 Kyle Cooper
17 Adam Brocklebank
18 David Wilson
19 Evan Olmstead
20 Gary Graham
21 Sam Stuart
22 Brett Connon
23 Johnny Williams
Updated 22:02 - 22 Mar 2019 by Hugh Barrow