Newcastle Falcons head coach Alan Tait has named his side for Sunday’s eagerly anticipated LV= Cup Final, against Gloucester at Franklin’s Gardens. The Falcons have made three changes to the team that snatched a last gasp 21-20 victory over Harlequins in the capital last week.
Luke Fielden returns to the wing, replacing Danny Williams who has failed to recover from a thigh strain. While creative centre Tane Tu’ipulotu gets a start at outside centre with Luke Eves making the switch to the wing.
A strong forward pack will lock horns with the Cherry and Whites with the only change being the introduction of Kieran Brookes for Euan Murray.
“It’s not very hard to get the players up for a game like this, and they are all buzzing for it,” Tait told the gathering media.
“We’ve knocked out the top seeds away from home last weekend, we’re in the final now and we are growing as a group. We have put in a lot of hard work over the whole season, and I just hope that we can get something out of it,” he said.
The northeasterners have the upper hand over Gloucester when it comes to head to head matchups this season. Gloucester were defeated 12-6 at Kingston Park back in November, as Jimmy Gopperth nailed four penalties to secure precious Aviva Premiership.
Tait who will be reunited with former Scotland teammate Bryan Redpath in the opposite dugout, believes his side can bring the trophy back to Tyneside, saying: “I know their coaches Carl Hogg and Bryan Redpath well – both good lads – but Paul Moriarty has got these forwards firing now. If we can make a battle of it, I’d back us in a scrap.
“I looked at the Gloucester players, who weren’t involved last weekend, and they had five guys in the Calcutta Cup match as well as the likes of Lesley Vainikolo, Dave Attwood and James Simpson-Daniel all out injured or suspended.”
And with the huge carrot of a place in next season’s Heineken Cup, the Scotsman acknowledges the importance of Sunday’s game.
He said: “People talk about us qualifying for the Heineken Cup if we win on Sunday, which would be a great achievement for the club, but it also makes you sit down and think that we are seriously short of numbers and quality you need to compete at that level.
“Don’t get me wrong, it would be amazing to be part of that competition, but it would be another head-ache for the owners when I come knocking on their door pestering them for additional players!”
After a slow start to their 2010/11 Aviva Premiership campaign, Newcastle have now elevated themselves closer to safety following back-to-back triumphs over Leeds Carnegie and Harlequins. It is fair to say that momentum is with the Kingston Park outfit, but Tait underlines that there is a “bigger job” to be done in the premiership, adding: “They have got to pick themselves up on the Monday morning again, regardless of the result, because there’s a bigger job to be done in securing our premiership status.”
15 Alex Tait
14 Luke Fielden
13 Tane Tu’ipulotu
12 James Fitzpatrick
11 Luke Eves
10 Jimmy Gopperth
9 Micky Young
1 Jon Golding
2 Matt Thompson
3 Kieran Brookes
4 James Hudson (Captain)
5 Andrew Van der Heijden
6 Tim Swinson
7 Brent Wilson
8 Ally Hogg
16 Rob Vickers
17 Grant Shiells
18 James Hall
19 Filipo Levi
20 Mark Wilson
21 Hall Charlton
22 Gcobani Bobo
23 Tom Catterick