Newcastle Falcons v Saracens Preview
By Doug Coil
On Saturday, September 16, the Aviva Premiership Rugby will play their second regular season match in the United States, as the Newcastle Falcons play the Saracens at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA.
The Saracens were also involved in the first regular season ever played on foreign soil, as they came from behind to beat London Irish 26-16 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. in March, 2016. The crowd for that match was 14,811. Alex Goode was the man of the match for Saracens as he scored 19 of their 26 points.
Goode returns at fullback against the Falcons for his 233rd appearance for the Saracens, while former USA Eagles captain Chris Wyles will be making his 229th appearance.
The European Champions Saracens are currently in 5th place in the Premiership Rugby standings with 5 points. The Saracens opened their season with a 55-24 win over the Northampton Saints and then lost to Bath 31-21. They have won one of their last four Aviva Premiership Rugby fixtures.
It is still early in the season and the Saracens have won their last seventeen matches against Newcastle in all competitions since the Falcons 13-9 victory at Kingston Park in February 2009. They also have their players that played with the British & Irish Lions starting for the first time this season.
The kickoff for the Premiership Rugby match at Talen Energy Stadium will be at 5pm local time (10pm in the UK).
The match is part of a long-term agreement with AEG, the world’s leading sports and live entertainment company, and involves Premiership Rugby playing a match in the USA every year for four years. The multi-year agreement also has the backing of NBC who will stream the match live on NBC Sports Gold and on a delayed broadcast on NBC Sports Net at 11pm ET Sunday, September 17. in the united Kingdom the match will be shown live on BT Sport with highlights available through our newest broadcast Partner, Channel 5.
Don’t miss any of the action – buy tickets or hospitality now and enjoy Premiership Rugby.
Premiership Rugby in cooperation with the Friends of the British Council, have been conducting both player and coaching clinics in New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. leading up to the match. I had a chance to interview coaches involved with the first clinic on September 5th at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, N.J.
In addition to the clinics, Premiership Rugby will be providing scholarships for 20 players and 10 coaches to come to England next Spring.
Newcastle Falcons head coach Dave Walder has made three changes from the side that defeated the Sale Sharks last weekend.
Vereniki Goneva, last season’s top try scorer, will be on the left wing. Sean Robinson replace Will Witty at lock and Nili Latu replaces Callum Chick at No.8.
“We were already a close squad but living in each other’s pockets for the full week does get you closer, and we’ve been looked after brilliantly,” said the former England fly-half.
“The game on Saturday is obviously the big focus but it has been an old-fashioned tour in the sense that the guys have enjoyed themselves, taken in some new experiences and just enjoyed being out here.
“We’ve been training at the University of Pennsylvania and the facilities have been great, so there can certainly be no excuses from that point of view. We’re here to win a big Aviva Premiership game and we believe we can achieve that.”
Falcons players have enjoyed a full week training in Philadelphia and have enjoyed a number of the local sites. Walder stated in a Newcastle Falcons release that “Everyone has been very open-minded about it in terms of the local population, and when we’ve been walking around in our Falcons kit they’re keen to know more about the game and what we’re doing over here.
“They’ve been very respectful towards us, the atmosphere has been great and people have been asking us lots of questions. In my personal opinion we’d have been foolish to turn down this invitation, and seeing the enjoyment the guys are getting out of the experience is fantastic. Obviously the game is the main thing, and I’m confident we’re in a good place to put in a big performance.
“This is the first time in a while we’ve played Saracens towards the start of the season, and we hope all their big internationals play. It’ll be good to test ourselves against them and see where we’re at.”
The front row will have Rob Vickers and Jon Welsh as props, with Scott Lawson at hooker. The locks are maned by Calum Green and Sean Robinson, while the back row consists of Mark Wilson at blindside flanker, captain Will Welsh at openside flanker and Nili Latu at No.8.
In the backs, Sonatane Takulua and Joel Hodgson will pair as halfbacks, with Josh Matavesi and Chris Harris the centers. The back three will have Vereniki Goneva on the left wing, with Alex Tait the right wing and Simon Hammersley at fullback.
The Saracens British & Irish Lions players will make their first starts of the season. This includes Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell and Liam Williams. Billy Vunipola was also to have toured with the Lions, however a shoulder injury prior to leaving, caused him to be unavailable. The England No.8 will make his first appearance of the season. England lock Nick Isiekwe, who has played well start to the season will replace George Kruis who has an ankle injury.
The backs will have Ben Spencer pairing with Owen Farrell as halfbacks. In the midfield, Brad Barritt will captain the side at inside center with Marcelo Bosch as outside center. In the back-three, Wales international Liam Williams will be on the right wing, with former USA Eagles captain, Chris Wyles on the left wing., with Alex Goode continuing at full-back.
The front row will consist of Mako Vunipola and Juan Figallo at props with Jamie George at hooker. At lock, Maro Itoje lines up alongside the youthful Nick Isiekwe, while Mike Rhodes (blindside flanker) and Schalk Burger (openside flanker) join Billy Vunipola in the back-row.
Saracens v Newcastle Falcons: 1 Mako Vunipola 2 Jamie George 3 Juan Figallo 4 Nick Isiekwe 5 Maro Itoje 6 Michael Rhodes 7 Schalk Burger 8 Billy Vunipola 9 Ben Spencer 10 Owen Farrell 11 Chris Wyles 12 Brad Barritt (c) 13 Marcelo Bosch 14 Liam Williams 15 Alex Goode 16 Christopher Tolofua 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer 18 Kieran Longbottom 19 Dominic Day 20 Jackson Wray 21 Richard Wigglesworth 22 Nick Tompkins 23 Sean Maitland
Referee: JP Doyle (135th Premiership game); Assistant Referees: Dean Richards & Paul Burton; TMO: David Sainsbury; Citing Officer: Andy Blyth.