sport

London Irish v Newcastle preview

Gerard Ellis is one of six changes to the London Irish starting line-up against Newcastle Falcons at Madejski Stadium.

The Academy star will start in the back row alongside Blair Cowan and Ofisa Treviranus.

Mike Mayhew and Leo Halavatau come into the front row alongside Matt Parr and George Skivington returns to captain the side in the second row alongside Nic Rouse.

Tom?O'Leary and Shane Geraghty will start at half-back with Eamonn Sheridan returning to partner Fergus Mulchrone in the centre. Andrew Fenby, Topsy Ojo and James O'Connor make up the back three.

"We are looking forward to playing at the Madejski Stadium in front of our home supporters on Sunday," said London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith.

"We have made a few changes to the side this week to freshen things up. The squad have applied themselves in training and are looking forward to a challenging contest with Newcastle."

Meanwhile, Newcastle Falcons skipper Will Welch starts this Sunday.

Welch is one of four players to return from injury with centre Jamie Helleur, winger Ryan Shortland and hooker Matt Thompson all back in the fray.

Falcons boss Dean Richards has made three further changes from the side that was defeated at home to Worcester Warriors a fortnight ago. Rugby League convert Lee Smith replaces Danny Barnes at centre, while fly-half Rory Clegg gets the nod with Noah Cato switching to full-back due to Shotland's inclusion on the wing.

Thompson and loose-head Grant Shiells form a new look front-row alongside tight-head Oliver Tomaszczyk who retains his place.

"On paper London Irish have a fantastic team with Shane Geraghty and James O'Conor in their ranks," said Newcastle director of rugby Richards.

"They are a really good team, and with Brian Smith at the helm they are very well-coached so they will be a big threat this weekend."

"We know that we can beat them down there, and we just need to make sure that we go out there and stick to the plan and deliver a performance on the day."

The teams:

Irish: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Andrew Fenby, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Tom?O'Leary, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Gerard Ellis, 6 Blair Cowan, 5 Nic Rouse, 4 George Skivington (c), 3 Leo Halavatau, 2 Mike Mayhew, 1 Matt ParrReplacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 John Yapp, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Ian Gough, 20 Bryn Evans, 21 Alex Lewington, 22 Myles Dorrian, 23 Darren Allinson

Newcastle: 15 Noah Cato, 14 Ryan Shortland, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 Lee Smith, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Warren Fury, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Will Welch (c), 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 Scott Macleod, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Grant ShiellsReplacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Dom Barrow, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Mike Blair, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 James Fitzpatrick