London Irish v Newcastle, Aviva Premiership, February 12
Exiles out to snap losing run
February 11, 2011
Topsy Ojo is leading the try-scoring charts this season © Getty Images
London Irish host Newcastle at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday with their hearts set on ending a six-game losing streak in the Aviva Premiership.
With recent victories over the Ospreys and Northampton in the Heineken and Anglo-Welsh Cups under their belts the Exiles will be in a far happier place than a month ago, when they slipped to a 12-6 defeat against Saracens in the last round of domestic action.
The picture is even less rosy for the Falcons, who are now only four points above basement side Leeds, having played the same number of games.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Kieran Low will be making only his second Premiership appearance for the Exiles this weekend, after being paired with Nick Kennedy in the second row. It will definitely be well worth keeping an eye on the England Under-20s ace.
London Irish - Team News: The Exiles make several changes to the side hammered by Gloucester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup last weekend. James Buckland comes back into the front row to join Paulica Ion after being away with the England Saxons for the last few weeks. Clarke Dermody is named at loosehead prop after Alex Corbisiero was called up to start for England against Italy for tomorrows Six Nations clash. Kieran Low comes into the second row to partner Nick Kennedy fresh from England U20's victory over Wales last weekend, with Kieran Roche moving to the back row. Paul Hodgson returns to partner Ryan Lamb at scrum-half and Elvis Seveali'i starts at outside centre.
Newcastle - Player to Watch: The Falcons don't score many tries - just 13 in total so far this season - so they rely heavily on the boot of Jimmy Gopperth. It is imperative that he kicks his goals if the visitors are to have any chance of prevailing this weekend.
Newcastle - Team News: Luke Eves earns a recall in midfield after his try-scoring cameo in last weekend's win over the Chiefs. Eves' return sees Jeremy Manning revert to his favoured position of fullback. Elsewhere, there is a seat on the bench for the fit-again Rob Vickerman.
Key Battle: Newcastle's Micky Young is being feted as one of the most exciting young scrum-halves in the league. Consequently, it will be interesting to see how he fares against a very experienced No.9 in the shape of Paul Hodgson. Given the supply of quality ball is always vitally important, this particular battle could prove decisive.
Trivia: Newcastle's six-game winless run in all competitions came to an end at home to Exeter in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on Sunday.
Stats: London Irish scrum-half Paul Hodgson has made more passes - 787 - than any other player in the league this season.
"It's great to be getting back to the Aviva Premiership which is our primary focus during any season. It is vital that we start to build up momentum for the next run of games to ensure we power our way into contention for the play-offs and the final reckoning come May." - London Irish head coach Toby Booth
"Defensively we've done well the last few games, which is key to getting success, but we've got to improve our attack to win these big games." - Newcastle boss Alan Tait
Fantasy: London Irish wing Topsy Ojo is the league's leading try-scorer with seven, have you opted for him in your ESPNscrum's Fantasy Rugby Game team?
Prediction: The Exiles have lost six on the bounce in the league but the Falcons form of late has hardly been much better. Expect Irish to get their campaign back on track with a straightforward win.
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