Irish eye top spot
September 23, 2010
Toby Booth's Exiles have shown glimpses of their best this season © Getty Images
Newcastle welcome high-flyers London Irish to Kingston Park on Saturday with the hosts determined to bounce back to winning ways.
Defeat against Premiership newcomers Exeter last time out was their second of the new campaign but confirmation of new investment into the club this week and a return to home soil - the scene of a hard-fought win over Wasps earlier this month - could inspire the Falcons.
The Exiles maintained the pressure on leaders Northampton with a workmanlike victory over Gloucester last Sunday in fron ot the ESPN cameras and will relish the chance to cement their strong start to the season against a misfiring Falcons side.
Newcastle - Player to Watch: With James Hudson sidelined, the pressure is on Tim Swinson to step up and ensure his regular second-row partner is not missed.
Newcastle - Team News: Falcons skipper Hudson has been ruled out for two months with a hamstring injury so there is a start for Filipo Levi in the second-row. Rob Vickers takes over as captain. There is also a recall for Scotland's Andy Henderson in midfield.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Seilala Mapusua had a storming game against Gloucester last weekend and the Exiles will be hoping that he produces another big showing.
London Irish - Team News: The Exiles have named an unchanged starting XV. There is one change on the bench, though, with Samoan winger Sailosi Tagicakibau returning after sitting out the past two matches with a sprained ankle.
Key Battle: Levi and Swinson will have a job on their hands getting the better of the Exiles' tried-and-trusted second-row pairing of Nick Kennedy and Bob Casey.
Trivia: The Falcons have not gained a try bonus point at Kingston Park in the Premiership since the opening round of the 2007-08 season.
Stats: The Exiles are unbeaten in their last six visits to Kingston Park although they were held to a 12-12 draw on their last visit in February this year.
Odds: The Falcons are an enticing 11/10 with Bet365 to follow up their win over Wasps at Kingston Park with a victory over Irish.
"I was very pleased with the manner of our victory over Gloucester last weekend. Once again we were defensively excellent and very dominant in the scrum. We have spoken about the different challenges of playing away from home against teams like Newcastle, and as a squad we are very clear what we need to do to be successful, both individually and collectively." - London Irish head coach Toby Booth
We're another leader down [Hudson], but if you said to me who are the young leaders that you want to build this club around, then Tim Swinson would probably be the first name on the list. I rate him that highly that I can see him being a future captain, and hopefully this club will keep him here." Newcastle Falcons head coach Alan Tait
Fantasy: The increasingly-influential Daniel Bowden looks like a shrewd addition to any Fantasy selection and as a Kiwi he is 'autumn international-proof'. Time to tweak your line-up? Check out the ESPN Premiership Rugby Fantasy Game now!
Prediction: The Falcons upset Wasps in their previous outing at Kingston Park but the Exiles should have too much class for their hosts. Away win.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September