Anthony Watson to make first appearance in over a year

There are two matches scheduled this Friday to kick off Round 20 of the Premiership as struggling Newcastle Falcons face Northampton Saints and Sale Sharks host Bath as the play-off race heats up.

Newcastle Falcons vs Northampton Saints

Fiji number eight Nemani Nagusa returns for Newcastle Falcons on Friday as they host Northampton Saints in another crucial Premiership game.

The only other change to the Falcons team for the Kingston Park clash sees Callum Chick coming into the back-row, John Hardie missing out with the shoulder injury he picked up during their last game against Leicester Tigers.

Mark Wilson slides across to the openside flank, his side looking to extend a run which has seen Newcastle winning their last six in the league against the Saints, Wilson scoring an added-time winner on December 1 at Franklin’s Gardens.

For Northampton, Luther Burrell and Tom Collins both return to Saints’ starting XV as Chris Boyd’s side look to press on towards the top-four places.

The men in Black, Green and Gold travel up to Kingston Park to take on Newcastle Falcons in search of their third straight away victory in the league.

Saints will be hoping to avenge a narrow last-gasp defeat to Falcons at Franklin’s Gardens back in December, with the race for knock-out rugby hitting fever pitch with just three rounds of the regular Premiership season remaining.

One of only two changes to the Northampton side that beat Harlequins 20-19 a fortnight ago at Twickenham Stoop, winger Collins replaces the injured George Furbank, and lines up in the back three alongside Taqele Naiyaravoro and Ahsee Tuala.

Meanwhile, Burrell comes into Saints’ midfield and plays inside Rory Hutchinson, with Dan Biggar and Cobus Reinach continuing in the half-back berths.

But Boyd’s forwards are completely unchanged from the side’s last outing; Teimana Harrison leading out the line-up in the number eight jersey, while flankers Jamie Gibson and Tom Wood pack down either side of him.

Francois van Wyk, Paul Hill and hooker Reece Marshall make up the front-row for Saints, and locks Api Ratuniyarawa and Courtney Lawes complete the side in the engine room.

Form: Newcastle Falcons have lost their last two Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches, at Saracens and at home to Leicester. The Falcons’ only victory at Kingston Park in any tournament since November was over Worcester Warriors in Premiership Rugby on 3 March. Northampton Saints’ last four matches in Gallagher Premiership Rugby have all been won by the away side on the day. The Saints have not won three in succession on the road in Premiership Rugby since December 2014. The Falcons have won their last six matches against the Saints in Premiership Rugby ending a run of 11 straight wins in the fixture by Northampton.

The teams:

Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood (cc), 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Nemani Nagusa, 7 Mark Wilson (cc), 6 Callum Chick, 5 Andrew Davidson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Logovi’i Mulipola Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Michael Young, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Johnny Williams

Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Teimana Harrison (c), 7 Tom Wood, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Reece Marshall, 1 Francois van Wyk Replacements: 16 Samson Ma’asi, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Devante Onojaife, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Andrew Kellaway

Venue: Kingston Park Kick-off: 19:45 BST (18:45 GMT) Referee: Luke Pearce Assistant referees: Steve Lee, John Meredith TMO: Trevor Fisher

Sale Sharks vs Bath

Sale have announced their squad for Friday’s Premiership Round 20 fixture against Bath at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Steve Diamond makes no changes to the starting line-up that travelled to La Rochelle for last weekend’s European Challenge Cup semi-final.

The back-row trio of Ben Curry, Tom Curry and Jono Ross that performed so well in France all keep their places at six, seven and eight respectively, while Josh Strauss moves onto the bench in place of Sam Moore.

Chris Ashton stays on the left wing, adding vital experience alongside Luke James and Denny Solomona in the back three, with the full-back’s elder brother, Sam, paired up with the in-form James O’Connor in the centres.

There is only one other alteration to the 23-man squad, which is in the front-row, as Valery Morozov replaces Tom Bristow on the bench.

Meanwhile, Anthony Watson returns to the Bath starting line-up to face on Friday.

Watson starts at full-back and is joined in the back three by Ruaridh McConnochie and Joe Cokanasiga. Jamie Roberts lines up alongside Jonathan Joseph in the midfield, with Kahn Fotuali’i and Freddie Burns continuing in an unchanged half-back partnership.

Beno Obano and Max Lahiff line up either side of Tom Dunn in the front-row, while Charlie Ewels captains the side from the second-row. Dave Attwood joins Ewels in the lock pairing, with Tom Ellis, Sam Underhill and Zach Mercer completing the pack to face eighth placed Sale.

Semesa Rokoduguni also completes his return to action as Bath’s top try-scorer is named among the replacements.

Form: Sale Sharks’ last four matches in Gallagher Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. The Sharks have won their last three games at AJ Bell Stadium in all competitions but have not won four in a row there since January 2018. Bath Rugby’s last four game have all been won by the home side on the day. Bath’s only away victory in any tournament since September was against Wasps at the Ricoh Arena in Round 10 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby. The last three encounters between the two clubs have been evenly split with one win apiece plus a draw whilst Bath’s only previous victory in Premiership Rugby at AJ Bell Stadium came in the opening round of the 2014/15 campaign.

The teams:

Sale: 15 Luke James, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 James O’Connor, 11 Chris Ashton, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jono Ross (c), 7 Tom Curry, 6 Ben Curry, 5 James Phillips, 4 Josh Beaumont, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Valery Morozov, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Matt Postlethwaite, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Cameron Redpath, 23 Arron Reed

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Charlie Ewels (c), 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Elliott Stooke, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni

Venue: AJ Bell Stadium Kick-off: 19:45 BST (18:45 GMT) Referee: Thomas Foley Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace, Simon McConnell TMO: Stuart Terheege