Mateo Carreras makes his first start for Newcastle Falcons on Friday when they travel to Sale Sharks in Premiership action.
The Argentina 7s wing made his club debut from the bench during Saturday’s victory over Harlequins and takes the place of Adam Radwan, who departed through injury during the 25-22 triumph.
John Hardie and Rob Farrar replace injured back-row pair Sean Robinson and Philip van der Walt in the only other two personnel changes - Newcastle looking to do the double over Sale after defeating their northern rivals with a last-minute try in round two.
Callum Chick captains the side having scored in his comeback game from a knee injury last weekend, director of rugby Dean Richards expecting a bruising battle against a Sharks side who sit fourth in the table.
“It’s fourth against sixth, and if we genuinely want to push into that top four then these are the kinds of games we need to be winning,” said Richards, whose team go into the second half of the regular season in the top half of the standings.
“It’ll be hard over there, for sure. In Lood de Jager they have a world class second row who played really well last weekend in beating Exeter, and they bring huge physicality.
“They’ll want to get one over us after we beat them earlier on in the season with a try at the death, and it’ll be a proper rugby battle. Like with any game we’ll go into it with the firm belief we can win, and we’ll see where that takes us.
“Sale will be expecting a tough game, just as we are. Nobody plays against Newcastle now thinking we’re a walkover, and opposition teams aren’t surprised by the physicality and quality we can bring to the table.”
On the injury which has ruled Radwan out of the AJ Bell Stadium fixture, Richards said: “We’re waiting on scans and medical reports, but he’s not playing on Friday and won’t be playing next weekend either. Anything beyond that we’ll have to wait and see depending on how things develop, and obviously the hope is that it isn’t a long-term scenario.”
Facing a Sharks side under new management following the recent appointment of Alex Sanderson, Richards is full of respect for the former back-rower.
“It’s great to see young English coaches going and serving their apprenticeships, which Alex definitely did at Saracens, and then taking that next step up on the ladder,” he said.
“Some boys can get thrown in without serving that time, which you really need to do, and it’s pleasing to see English coaches developing in that way.”
Looking to kick on from last weekend’s victory against an in-form Harlequins side, Richards added: “We knew we’d be fresher than Quins with having hardly trained or played for the previous three weeks, but the flip side of that was the fact that your accuracy can suffer when you’re not working on those skills day in, day out.
“We had a huge focus on making sure we could bring enough of that accuracy to the table, and despite leaving a few tries out there we just about managed to show enough game understanding to get the job done.
“It was always going to be a difficult game against a talented side who had won a lot of games coming into it, but I was pleased overall.”
That result came on the back of a pair of cancellations, Richards stating: “The most enjoyable thing in rugby is playing and nobody likes that being taken away from them, so to get back to playing and winning was great for the boys.
“Of course you want to do it in front of your own fans, which is a shame that they’re not allowed in at the moment, but that time will come.”
Newcastle Falcons team to face Sale Sharks (Friday, 8pm, AJ Bell Stadium, BT Sport Extra 1)
15 Tom Penny
14 Mateo Carreras
13 Matias Orlando
12 Luther Burrell
11 Ben Stevenson
10 Brett Connon
9 Louis Schreuder
1 Trevor Davison
2 George McGuigan
3 Logovi’i Mulipola
4 Greg Peterson
5 Marco Fuser
6 Rob Farrar
7 John Hardie
8 Callum Chick (captain)
16 Jamie Blamire
17 Adam Brocklebank
18 Mark Tampin
19 Darren Barry
20 Connor Collett
21 Michael Young
22 Joel Matavesi
23 Alex Tait