Tom Vickers’ Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints preview

REPEAT PERFORMANCE? - Saints had to dig deep to win at Newcastle in February, and they may have to do the same on Sunday
REPEAT PERFORMANCE? - Saints had to dig deep to win at Newcastle in February, and they may have to do the same on Sunday
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Fixture: Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints (Aviva Premiership round three)

Date/kick-off time: Sunday, September 21 (2pm kick-off)

Venue: Kingston Park, Newcastle upon Tyne

Weather forecast: 15c, a mix of sun and clouds

Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley; Cato, Powell, Socino, A Tuilagi; Godman Blair; Brookes, Lawson, S Wilson; Green, Barrow; Furno, Welch (c), Hogg.

Replacements: Hawkins, Rogers, Tomaszczyk, M Wilson, Mayhew, Fury, Tiesi, Sinoti.

Saints: Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Hooley, Fotuali’i; A Waller, Hartley (c), Ma’afu; Lawes, C Day; Clark, Wood, Manoa.

Replacements: McMillan, Corbisiero, Denman, Craig, Fisher, L Dickson, Waldouck, Wilson.

Outs: Newcastle: Ruki Tipuna. Saints: Haywood (shoulder), Dickinson (neck), G Dickson (hip), Hodgson (wrist), Dowson (hamstring), Myler (calf strain).

Most recent meeting: Sunday, February 23: Newcastle 16 Saints 22

Tom’s preview: For Newcastle, see Wasps.

Black kit, long winless run against Saints, desperate to make an early-season statement - we know where this one ends.

Well, we know where it ended last weekend at least as Jim Mallinder’s men saw their 10-match Wasps winning streak sail into the the High Wycombe sky.

This weekend, Falcons will be the ones looking for a lift. A victory that would break a run of eight straight losses at the hands of Saints.

But it is not only Northampton who have had the better of Newcastle in recent times.

Dean Richards’ side have not won in the Aviva Premiership since last October, a period that encompasses 18 league matches.

And though the past should have little bearing on Sunday’s outcome, that is a record that Saints dare not allow to come to an end this weekend.

All the pressure will be on the team in the away corner.

They are expected to and win, and win handsomely, whatever platitudes are uttered in the pre-match interviews.

Make no mistake about it - there would be no hiding place should Saints lose at Kingston Park.

And that is where this fixture differs from last weekend’s.

Saints could go to Wasps and end up on the wrong end of the scoreline without too many questions being asked.

Wasps had started well, pushing Saracens all the way at Twickenham eight days earlier.

Dai Young’s side finished seventh last season and continue to build, looking hungry for at least a top-six finish this time round.

Newcastle, on the other hand, will have a survival first approach to the campaign and looked more than capable of fulfilling it when just missing out against London Irish last weekend.

That performance should provide some momentum heading into Sunday’s clash - and Saints will have to make their mark early, as they did at Kingston Park in February.

On that occasion, they sidestepped a few potholes to earn a 19-6 lead and, although they suffered a few scares, they came through unscathed.

This weekend’s game will be a different proposition with no wintry weather and no racecourse-like pitch to contend with.

Newcastle’s new 3G surface should suit Saints down to the ground, if their performances on Saracens’ artificial pitch are anything to go by.

And Saints’ performance on the plastic will need to be fairly fantastic if they are to avoid a second away defeat on the spin.

Tom’s prediction: Newcastle 15 Saints 28