Former Ireland prop Rodney Ah You makes his Gallagher Premiership debut on Saturday when in-form Newcastle Falcons travel to Saracens in search of their fourth successive victory.
Ah You joined from Ulster this season and has 126 Pro 14 appearances to his name, the 30-year-old making a successful return to fitness during Monday’s 73-5 Premiership Rugby Shield victory over Sale Jets.
Chris Harris makes his 100th appearance for the Falcons, his debut back in December 2014 seeing the Scotland centre scoring two tries against Saracens.
Samoan international Logovi’i Mulipola switches over to the loose-head side in light of Ah You’s inclusion, Callum Chick coming into the team at No 8 in place of Mark Wilson who picked up a knock during the Falcons’ victory over Sale Sharks at St James’ Park.
Canadian international Evan Olmstead makes his first start of the season after re-joining the Falcons from Mitre 10 Cup winners Auckland, the only other change to the team seeing Alex Tait start at full-back in place of Simon Hammersley.
On the bench there is a return for lock-forward Sean Robinson following a broken arm sustained in the away win over Northampton in early December, Scotland centre Alex Dunbar also among the replacements after captaining the Falcons’ A-Team in Monday night’s 11-try rout.
Head coach Dave Walder said: “Saracens are the most consistent team in the Premiership over the past seven or eight years in terms of winning trophies and being at the business end of tournaments, and it’s always a tough game down there.
“They have internationals in every position and internationals to back them up, but we’ve got momentum behind us now and it’s a challenge we’re ready for. We’ve won our last three, this is the next one and we’re looking forward to it.”
Beating Sale Sharks in front of more than 27,000 people at St James’ Park last time out, lifelong Newcastle United fan Walder said: “That was a proud day for everyone connected with the club. Our supporters turned out in their numbers, the lads really performed – maybe the first 20 minutes aside – and the fact we won the game made it even better.
“To not lose a single breakdown when they had Jono Ross and the Curry brothers playing, I think that was testament to work that Micky Ward has been doing with the lads in that area, and the thing now is to carry it into our next game on Saturday.
“We’re confident that we’ve put in place a good game plan and the lads have understood it well during the week, we know it won’t be easy down there but we’re going to give it absolutely everything.
“Saracens are the best team around in terms of doing their basics time and time again. You know exactly what’s coming but their execution is outstanding, and that’s the test for our boys.
Newcastle Falcons team to face Saracens (Saturday, 3pm, Allianz Park)
15 Alex Tait
14 Vereniki Goneva
13 Chris Harris
12 Josh Matavesi
11 Sinoti Sinoti
10 Toby Flood (captain)
9 Sonatane Takulua
1 Logovi’i Mulipola
2 George McGuigan
3 Rodney Ah You
4 Evan Olmstead
5 Andrew Davidson
6 Gary Graham
7 John Hardie
8 Callum Chick
16 Kyle Cooper
17 Sam Lockwood
18 David Wilson
19 Sean Robinson
20 Will Witty
21 Sam Stuart
22 Brett Connon
23 Alex Dunbar
Referee: Karl Dickson