Newcastle Falcons welcome back club captain Will Welch for Saturday’s Aviva Premiership trip to Harlequins.

The flanker returns from a head knock, with fellow back row man Mark Wilson also back fit after recovering from a hamstring problem.

Fit-again full-back Simon Hammersley replaces Alex Tait in the only other change to the side which defeated Bath 29-12 last Friday, Newcastle aiming to do the double over Harlequins after defeating the London side 11-10 when they met in December at Kingston Park Stadium.

Beating Bath 29-12 last time out, director of rugby Dean Richards said: “We feel like there is more to come from this side and that we let a few chances go begging last week, and it’s nice that the boys are self-critical.

“They’re playing with an ambition, enthusiasm and an accuracy which is improving, they’re gradually pulling it together but we feel there is another gear which we’re capable of finding.”

Placed fifth in the Aviva Premiership and winning their group in both cups, Richards added: “We’ve put ourselves in a decent position but every game is crucial now, with seven left in the league and a couple of cup knock-out games.

“We’ve a chance of getting into the Champions Cup or the Premiership play-offs, but on the same token if you have a bad week you can drop four or five places. It really is that close, and it just goes to show why the Aviva Premiership is the toughest league in the world.”

Newcastle are without Scotland hooker Scott Lawson on Calcutta Cup day, while their London hosts will be minus a number of England internationals.

“Quins have missed a few key players, and guys like Danny Care and Chris Robshaw would be missed by any side,” said Richards, himself a former Harlequins director of rugby.

“Those guys make them click on a regular basis, but they’re still a force to be reckoned with and they’ll be a difficult nut to crack. That said, we’re going well at the moment and there’s no reason why we can’t go down there and play with a great deal of confidence.

“Even with key personnel away Quins still have the same DNA running through their side, but they’re without a couple of those proven game-changers.

“From our own end if we’re going to make the top four we realistically need to win five out of the remaining seven, and the challenge is there for us. On top of that we have a European quarter-final and an Anglo-Welsh semi-final, so there’s a lot going on and we need to be competitive in all areas.”

Newcastle Falcons team to face Harlequins (Saturday, 2.30pm, Twickenham Stoop)

15 Simon Hammersley

14 Vereniki Goneva

13 Chris Harris

12 Josh Matavesi

11 Sinoti Sinoti

10 Toby Flood

9 Michael Young

1 Rob Vickers

2 Kyle Cooper

3 Jon Welsh

4 Calum Green

5 Will Witty

6 Mark Wilson

7 Will Welch (captain)

8 Nili Latu

Replacements

16 Santiago Socino

17 Sam Lockwood

18 Trevor Davison

19 Sean Robinson

20 Callum Chick

21 Sonatane Takulua

22 Joel Hodgson

23 Maxime Mermoz