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Richards predicts tough test

Dean Richards expects his Newcastle team to be challenged "in every aspect of the game" by Aviva Premiership rivals Sale Sharks on Friday night.

While Newcastle's return to top-flight English rugby began with a 21-0 home defeat against Bath, Sale shredded the pre-season form book when they beat Gloucester at Kingsholm.

And Falcons rugby director Richards saw enough in Sale's performance to know they will pose a major challenge at Salford City Stadium.

"Sale are a very unified side and they work for each other, so they will challenge us in every aspect of the game," Richards said.

"It was a surprise result for them to win down at Gloucester, but I think it heightens our awareness of what they are about.

"They are a very physical side who are comfortable in all sorts of conditions, and they have a top drawer team in terms of their willingness to play rugby.

"Some of their scores last weekend were outstanding, and it's going to be a difficult game for us.

"We have worked on the things that didn't quite go according to plan last week, and we've worked even more on the positives that came out of the game.

"For us it's about working hard for one another and making sure we make the right decisions, and I firmly believe that we have the players to do that."

Newcastle welcome back skipper Will Welch for their opening away game as one of five changes following the Bath loss.

Elsewhere, centre Jamie Helleur is replaced by Adam Powell after he suffered concussion in the Bath match, and there are starts for prop Oliver Tomaszczyk and hooker Matt Thompson, while lock Fraser McKenzie lines up against his former club.

Sale, meanwhile, show just one enforced change from Gloucester, with centre Jonny Leota absent injured, so former England wing Mark Cueto moves into midfield and Tom Brady lines up on the wing.

Harlequins and Northampton go head-to-head at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday after winning their opening games in contrasting fashion.

While Quins edged past Wasps 16-15 last weekend, Saints encountered few problems putting Exeter away at Franklin's Gardens, posting a 38-11 bonus point success.

Both sides show changes, though, with Paul Doran-Jones making a first Premiership start for Quins against his former club, while wing Tom Williams replaces Paul Sackey, centre Tom Casson is in for Jordan Turner-Hall and flanker Maurie Fa'asavalu takes over from Luke Wallace.

Samoa international scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i will wear Northampton's number nine jersey for the first time in a Premiership match, starting alongside fellow new arrivals George North and Alex Corbisiero, and there are also starts for centre James Wilson, flanker Calum Clark and number eight Samu Manoa.


From Belfast Telegraph