Louis Brown makes his Gallagher Premiership debut for Newcastle Falcons on Friday night when they travel to Sale Sharks in the league’s all-northern clash.
The Yorkshireman (pictured) was a summer signing from Coventry and starts in a back three which includes Ben Redshaw, the 18-year-old who has made four appearances so far this season.
Scrum-half James Elliott makes his Falcons debut with the County Durham native having arrived from Jersey Reds, Zach Kerr partnering Cameron Hutchison in the centres.
Welshman Josh Thomas slots in at fly-half in a side showing 13 changes from the one which started at home to Saracens – the Falcons battling a five-day turnaround following Sunday’s home date against the champions.
Jamie Blamire (hamstring) and Adam Radwan (hip) are both absent through injury, with Mateo Carreras (hamstring) and Matias Moroni (shin) once again missing out. Fellow Argentina stars Eduardo Bello and Pedro Rubiolo, meanwhile, are handed some recuperation time following the Rugby World Cup and Rugby Championship schedules.
Newcastle native Phil Brantingham starts at loose-head prop in a front row which also sees the inclusion of Irishman Bryan Byrne and Scotland’s Murray McCallum, with former Wasps duo Tim Cardall and Kiran McDonald forming the second row.
John Hawkins makes his first start at blind-side flanker following his recent arrival from Jersey, joining a back-row with homegrown pair Guy Pepper and captain Callum Chick.
On the bench there could be Premiership debuts for John Kelly, Louie Johnson and Oliver Spencer, with hooker Charlie Maddison set to make his comeback from long-term injury.
Head coach Alex Codling is well aware of the challenge his side will face at Salford Community Stadium, although the Falcons defeated the Sharks 23-10 in Premiership Rugby Cup action two months ago.
Codling said: “There’s no hiding away from the disappointment around Sunday’s performance against Saracens despite starting the game well, and the task at Sale is just as big. We have to front up, and I’ve never shied away from a challenge.
“If you look at this season we’ve had two near misses against Gloucester and Northampton where we could and should have won, and then Bath away where we had a kick for a bonus point in the last minute. We didn’t take those opportunities and that has changed external perceptions of us, but it’s down to us to change that narrative through our own actions.
“Sunday against Saracens was a tough day at the office with quality opposition, and there are going to be those bumps in the road. As tough as those experiences are, you have to learn from them. We’ve got to start making better decisions, be more accurate and disciplined, because if you’re not then the top teams will punish you.”
On the decision to recall Redshaw, who started the first two games of the league season, Codling explained: “Ben starts at full-back, and it’s guys like him who are the future of this club.
“We have to back these players, and Oli Spencer is another, who will be on the bench for Friday. It’s finding that balance between giving them exposure at this level but not damaging them by starting them every week, and that’s where we as coaches and support staff have to help them in the long term. It’s mental as well as physical, but they’re huge talents who can play a big part in this club’s future along with the likes of Guy Pepper, who has been exceptional.
“It’s a challenge, and not every decision we make will be the right one, but I’ll continue to make as many positive ones as I can.”
The head coach added: “The players are working their backsides off and some of it just comes down to the ability to execute under pressure, which only comes through experience. They’re hard lessons to learn sometimes but that’s where we are, and we will just keep pushing forward.
“Saracens on the weekend was always going to be tough and you have to keep these things in context, but Gloucester and Northampton were both games where we were in a position to win it. Even at Bath away we had chances at the end and lost by eight, so there have been positive performances even if the results haven’t followed.
“As a leader in the organisation I will always be positive and keep driving the standards, and that’s the message. A five-day turnaround means there has to be changes this week, but you dust yourself down and attack the next test.
“We’re playing last season’s Premiership finalists back to back having played the league leaders away the week before, and that’s the standard you have to meet. But we’re looking forward to the challenge of going over to Sale and benefiting from the lessons we learn about this group of players.”
Newcastle Falcons team v Sale Sharks (Friday, 7.45pm, Salford Community Stadium)
15 Ben Redshaw, 14 Louis Brown, 13 Zach Kerr, 12 Cameron Hutchison, 11 Iwan Stephens, 10 Josh Thomas, 9 James Elliott; 1 Phil Brantingham, 2 Bryan Byrne, 3 Murray McCallum, 4 Tim Cardall, 5 Kiran McDonald, 6 John Hawkins, 7 Guy Pepper, 8 Callum Chick (captain).
Replacements: 16 Charlie Maddison, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 John Kelly, 20 Josh Bainbridge, 21 Josh Barton, 22 Louie Johnson, 23 Oliver Spencer.
Not available for selection: Jamie Blamire, Mateo Carreras, Sam Clark, Sam Cross, Ben Douglas, Isaac Keller, Matias Moroni, Richard Palframan, Tom Penny, Adam Radwan, Sam Stuart, Marcus Tiffen, George Wacokecoke.
Sale Sharks: 15 Joe Carpenter, 14 Tom Roebuck, 13 Sam James, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Arron Reed, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Gus Warr; 1 Bevan Rodd, 2 Agustin Creevy, 3 James Harper, 4 Cobus Wiese, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 7 Ben Curry (captain), 8 Dan du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Asher Opoku-Fordjour 19 Ben Bamber, 20 Sam Dugdale, 21 Nye Thomas, 22 Tom Curtis, 23 Alex Wills.
Referee: Adam Leal.