Newcastle v Wasps, Aviva Premiership, September 11
Wounded Falcons open the gates to Wasps
September 9, 2010
Dave Walder starts at fly-half for Wasps © Getty Images
Newcastle open the gates of Kingston Park for the first time this season on Friday, with Wasps the visitors as the second round of the new Aviva Premiership season gets underway.
Both sides endured disappointment in their opening game of the season, with the Falcons suffering a damaging defeat away to one of last the sides that spent last season scrapping against the drop, Sale.
Wasps were thankful for a late Mark van Gisbergen penalty as they salvaged a draw against Harlequins in part two of the London Double Header at Twickenham, having squandered a handy lead at the start of the second-half.
London Wasps - Player to Watch: Dave Walder. After Riki Flutey took the No.10 jersey in round one, Tony Hanks has turned to Mr. Dependable to steer the ship. Flutey is back in the centres, leaving Walder to take charge.
London Wasps - Team News: Joe Worsley drops to the bench, with Dan Ward-Smith promoted to the starting XV at blindside, while tight-head Zak Taulafo and England Under-20s lock James Cannon also start. Ben Jacobs replaces the injured Dom Waldouck at outside-centre.
Newcastle Falcons - Player to Watch: Jimmy Gopperth. Last season's Golden Boot winner is back in the saddle this week and the home side will no doubt be looking for him to chip in with plenty of points from the tee.
Newcastle Falcons - Team News: Gopperth is joined at halfback by England Sevens regular Micky Young while summer signings Redford Pennycook and Luke Fielden both get their chance to impress on debut.
Key Battle: Ally Hogg and Brent Wilson have plenty of experience and will need to help Pennycook negate a Wasps back-row brimming with pace and power as Ward-Smith joins Andy Powell and Tom Rees in the starting line-up.
Trivia: Born and bred in Newcastle, Walder twice kicked last-minute penalties in his Falcons career to snatch victory away from Wasps, whom he joined in 2006 after 110 appearances for his hometown club.
Stats: Newcastle's only win in nine attempts against Wasps came last season at Adams Park, when Gopperth kicked four penalties in a 12-6 victory. Conversely, Wasps have won on their last five visits to Kingston Park.
Quote Unquote: "We did pick up a few injuries with [Richard] Birkett, [Dom] Waldouck and [Phil] Vickery all ruled out this weekend, but the depth running throughout the squad this season still allows us to name a strong 23 man squad and have confidence going into the game. That is a reflection of some really positive recruitment this summer and shows the quality we have across all positions this year." - Wasps director of rugby Tony Hanks
"Micky Young was disappointed about being left out, he made that known to me but rather than whinge about it he just got out there in the second half and made an impact on the game when he came on. His attitude was spot on, and that's all you can ask." - Falcons boss Alan Tait.
Fantasy: It's round two of ESPN Premiership Rugby Fantasy Game this weekend and there are plenty of options available in this one. Gopperth kicked wonderfully last season and is worth a punt, while van Gisbergen and Walder are no slouches from the tee. Andy Powell and Tom Varndell bagged tries for the visitors last weekend.
Prediction: Home advantage and the return of Gopperth will aid the Falcons, but Wasps have plenty of quality and know how to win at Kingston Park. Wasps to nick it by five to ten.