Tom Vickers' Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints preview
Fixture: Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints (Anglo-Welsh Cup - game one)
Date and kick-off time: Sunday, November 6, 2016, 3pm.
Venue: Kingston Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle Falcons: Tait (c); Watson, Burdon, Willis, Sinoti; Delany, M Young; Lockwood, Sowrey, Wilson; Witty, Davidson; Hogg, Holmes, Chick.
Replacements: Lawson, Vickers, Welsh, G Young, Chisanga, Egerton, Hodgson, Waldouck.
Saints: Wilson; Packman, Burrell, Hutchinson, Collins; Olver, Kessell; E Waller, Clare, Hill; Ratuniyarawa, Day (c); J Onojaife, Gibson, Ludlum.
Replacements: Fish, Beesley, Denman, Moon, D Onojaife, Dickson, Estelles, Elliott.
Referee: Greg Macdonald
Most recent meeting: Sunday, February 21, 2016: Newcastle Falcons 26 Saints 25 (Aviva Premiership)
Tom’s preview: Newcastle could just be the land of opportunity for some Saints youngsters this Sunday.
Because with the first-team stars stuttering, now is perhaps a better time than ever for the next generation to showcase their talent.
The door to the senior side is ajar after just four wins from nine matches in all competitions so far this season.
And as director of rugby Jim Mallinder said this week, the young guns now have a great chance to walk through it and claim a regular starting spot.
But that is easier said than done, and players will have to produce really special displays to make a first-team shirt their own.
They will be helped by a smattering of experienced pros, such as Christian Day, Luther Burrell and James Wilson this weekend.
And it is hard for Saints fans not to get excited by the mix that Mallinder has put together.
The youth and experience could be a potent blend and supporters will be relishing the chance to see what the likes of Lewis Ludlum and Howard Packman can produce.
They have shown their worth for the Wanderers, and this is the next step on their journey to the top.
Others such as Tom Collins and Tom Kessell already have plenty of first-team exposure and are now looking to ram home the message that they should be called on regularly.
And with some first-team positions still open, the next two weeks will be vital for them.
The matches against Newcastle and Gloucester are also vital for the club as a whole, with Saints desperate to finally build some momentum.
They have yet to register back-to-back wins this season, with Mallinder’s men consistently inconsistent.
Now they need to end that vicious ‘lose, react’ cycle and really kick on for the rest of 2016.
Back in the 2013/14 season, when Saints won an Aviva Premiership and Amlin Challenge Cup double, a 13-match unbeaten run was achieved.
They continued to plough on through Anglo-Welsh Cup weeks and built a must-not-lose mentality.
That is what they need again now.
Novembers’s fixtures see them face Newcastle, twice, Gloucester and Worcester Warriors.
Saints really could do with winning all of those matches going into the big east midlands derby at Leicester Tigers on December 3.
The young guns are charged with helping to put them team in a good position ahead of the Welford Road scrap.
And there would be no better way to start the ball rolling than winning in Newcastle this weekend.
Tom’s prediction: Newcastle Falcons 18 Saints 28