Saracens travel to the north east of England this weekend to face the Newcastle Falcons in round 20 of the Aviva Premiership, here Henry Fraser previews Sunday’s game.
Falcons – Form guide, won 3, lost 16.
It has been a very tough return to the Premiership for Newcastle. But what has been a long season for them is almost over. Over recent weeks they have been pulled closer and closer into the relegation battle.
Newcastle are making lots of transfers adding to the strength of their squad, but this has hampered their ability to gain consistency.
They currently sit just seven points above the drop zone with only three games left to play. So they are not safe just yet and will be taking nothing for granted.
They are a team built on Dean Richards resilience and have huge pride, especially when playing at home.
The choice at fly half is key to how the Falcons will play. Phil Godman likes to sit deep and play more of a kicking game, whereas Rory Clegg likes to be more attacking and take on defenders and put players through gaps.
It’s the two flankers for the Falcons that could prove to be key. Both, Welch and Saull, love to get around the pitch and be a nuisance at the breakdown. It’s very important for them to slow Sarries attack as they’re very hard to stop once they get going.
The set piece is one of the stronger components of the Falcons play. They have a lot of experience in the second, and like to command the line outs.
26/1/14 Saracens 41 – 8 Newcastle Falcons
3/11/13 Saracens 40 – 3 Newcastle Falcons
20/4/12 Newcastle Falcons 3 – 9 Saracens
Players to watch
Rory Clegg – Since his move back to the North-East Clegg seems to be regaining the form that promised so much during his first stint at the club as the young apprentice to a certain Jonny Wilkinson. He is part of a great conveyor belt of Falcons fly-half’s that includes Andrew, Wilkinson and Flood. He looks to be the player Dean Richards can start build a team for the future around.
Mike Blair - He has, and will prove to be, one on Richards most valuable signings. With a wealth of experience at both club and international level he adds a cool head around those players who have not played a lot of top flight rugby. He is a tremendous orchestrator and can put the Falcons in the right positions to cause some trouble. Blair’s combination with Clegg is vital as he can take away a lot of pressure from his younger fellow half back and allow him to focus on getting the team going forward.