Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints: Big match preview

Fin Smith and Saints won at Kingston Park in April (photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)Fin Smith and Saints won at Kingston Park in April (photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Fin Smith and Saints won at Kingston Park in April (photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Fixture: Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints

Date and kick-off time: Sunday, October 29, 2023, 3pm

Venue: Kingston Park, Newcastle

Weather forecast: 10c, showers

Live television coverage: TNT Sports

Referee: Hamish Smales

Assistant referees: Hamish Grant and Jamie Leahy

No.4: Gregg Dawson

TMO: Dean Richards

Newcastle Falcons: Obatoyinbo; Radwan, Penny, Jennings, Stephens; Connon, Stuart; Brocklebank, Blamire, Tampin; van der Walt, de Chaves; Cross, Pepper, Chick (c).

Replacements: Byrne, Brantingham, McCallum, Hawkins, McDonald, O’Sullivan, Lockwood, Orlando.

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Saints: Furbank (c); Seabrook, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Hendy; F Smith, James; E Waller, Langdon, Davison; Munga, Coles; Scott-Young, Pearson, Graham.

Replacements: Cruse, A Waller, Millar Mills, Lockett, Moon, McParland, Grayson, Litchfield.

Not available for Saints selection: Juarno Augustus, Callum Braley, Tommy Freeman, Emmanuel Iyogun, Tarek Haffar, Temo Mayanavanua, Beltus Nonleh, Burger Odendaal, James Ramm, Robbie Smith, Kayde Sylvester.

International duty: Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Alex Mitchell.

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Most recent meeting: Friday, April 21, 2023: Newcastle Falcons 5 Saints 66 (Gallagher Premiership)

Newcastle Falcons head coach Alex Codling: “We're creating the chances, we've now got to finish them and we've got to make sure we're on the right side of the penalty count. I think it will be a great game for the neutrals. Both sides look to move the ball, both sides like to play with pace, and both sides are stacked with quality."

Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson: "You've obviously got to hope for the same (performance as last season) but they will be different conditions, there's a different director of rugby for them, different players in both squads so it's going to be vastly different to last season. But if we can get some of the energy we had in that game then we won't be too far away. Alex Codling will be putting his mark on it there. I know Codders so I know how thoughtful he'll be in terms of what he's trying to put together. They've always had a really committed and competitive squad in terms of what they want to do and how they represent the north east and that's an exciting challenge for us."

Oval Insights stats: Newcastle Falcons: So far this season, a league-low 1.2 per cent of the Falcons’ tackles have been dominant. Their rate of carry dominance (17.4 per cent) is also the second-lowest in the league; Adam Radwan is the only player in the Premiership who has made five clean breaks this season; Falcons have won a league-high four maul turnovers so far this season, three of which came against Gloucester last weekend. They have also made the most maul metres in the league (72); The Falcons have the poorest tackle success rate in the league (75.6 per cent). Saints: The Saints have made more offloads (28), beaten more defenders (57), and made more clean breaks than any other team (28); Alex Coles has made a league-high five offloads in the opening two rounds of the season; The Saints have the second-best rate of ball retention in the league: they have made an average of 13.3 carries per turnover despite making the most carries in the opening two rounds (306); Saints have the second-poorest rate of gainline success in the Premiership (28.8 per cent).‌

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Tom Vickers’ prediction: This will be much, much closer than back in April when Saints ran riot at Kingston Park. Newcastle will have been hurt by that and will be desperate to put things right. But Saints really need to get up and running this weekend, and I’m backing them to just about do it, despite missing a massive 14 players. Newcastle Falcons 23 Saints 25.

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