Simon Hammersley is one of eleven changes to the Falcons’ starting line-up for this weekend’s European Rugby Challenge Cup clash in Ireland, as Dean Richards’s men turn their focus to a top of the pool clash.
Having taken a losing bonus point in round one, followed by a full five point win against Enisei in week two, a trip to face an Irish side who are two from two provides a mouth-watering fixture for the Durham University graduate to make a welcome return from injury to the club’s senior side.
Holding true to the Falcons mission statement of using the competition to offer starting opportunities to some of its finest English qualified talent, Hammersley is one of eleven players in Friday’s match day squad to have been involved with the Falcons’ Academy.
All but one of his backline colleagues are part of this group as Chris Harris and Tom Penny continue as a centre pairing, after impressing in the opening two weekends, while Zach Kibirige and Dan Marshall are the wing men.
Having performed well against Brive at Fullback and conducting the clubs A team from Fly Half, Craig Willis steps into the ten shirt, while Tongan international Tane Takulua makes his first start for the club since returning from Rugby World Cup duty earlier this season.
In the pack, England Under-20s Lock Will Witty makes his second start for the club as he continues his injury comeback and will be hoping to repeat his powerful performance on his debut start in last year’s competition.
The 20 year old announced himself in barnstorming fashion, crashing through the defence of Bucharesti Wolves for a debut try after only two minutes of play, marking him as one of a number of emerging stars that should be watched with interest at Kingston Park.
Witty is joined in the second row by England international Mouritz Botha, the pair lining up behind last weekend’s replacement front row; of Alex Rogers, Scotland hooker Scott Lawson and Tongan tight head Taione Vea.
New Zealand-born Academy graduate Dan Temm steps back into the number seven shirt he wore in the Falcons last European game, while Ally Hogg and Richard Mayhew complete the back row, with the latter also assuming captaincy duties.
After scoring four tries in the last round of the competition, former England Sevens flyer Marcus Watson will be hoping to add to his tally from the bench this weekend, where he is joined by Argentine international Juan Pablo Socino and Academy Scrum Half Ruaridh Dawson.
England U18s captain Callum Chick also features amongst the Falcons’ replacements alongside Lock Calum Green, Hooker Rob Hawkins and props Ben Harris and Andrew Foster.
Newcastle Falcons squad versus Connacht Rugby – Friday 11 December – KO 19:45
15 Simon Hammersley, 14. Dan Marshall, 13. Tom Penny, 12. Chris Harris, 11. Zach Kibirige, 10. Criag Willis, 9. Sonatane Takulua; 1. Alex Rogers, 2. Scott Lawson, 3. Taione Vea, 4. Will Witty, 5. Mouritz Botha, 6. Richard Mayhew (c), 7. Daniel Temm, 8. Ally Hogg.
16 Rob Hawkins, 17. Ben Harris, 18. Andrew Foster, 19. Calum Green, 20. Callum Chick, 21. Ruaridh Dawson, 22. Juan Pablo Socino, 23. Marcus Watson