Nagusa back to face Toulon
January 17 2019
Fiji No 8 Nemani Nagusa returns to Newcastle Falcons’ side for Friday’s Heineken Champions Cup visit of French club RC Toulon to Kingston Park Stadium (kick-off 7.45pm). The summer signing started in the Falcons’ last two victories over Bath and Northampton but left the field early into the Champions Cup defeat against Edinburgh, Nagusa being joined by fit-again winger Sinoti Sinoti for the final group-stage clash. The Falcons make just one further change as fit-again hooker George McGuigan comes in for Kyle Cooper, while positional switches see Tom Arscott moving from wing to full-back, Gary Graham sliding from blind-side to open-side and Ryan Burrows moving from No 8 to blind-side.
Newcastle defeated the three-time Champions Cup winners 26-25 when they met on the French Rivera back in October, and were also victorious by a 6-3 margin the last time Toulon visited Kingston Park during the 2011/12 Challenge Cup.
Speaking ahead of Friday’s game, defence coach John Wells said: “People on the outside might view this as a dead rubber, but for us it’s incredibly important in helping generate the momentum which is going to take us through the back half of the Premiership season.
“It’s a chance to do a home-and-away double against a side who have won the Champions Cup three times in the past six years, even if by their own high standards they’ve had a fairly miserable season this time round.
“They’ve got stars left, right and centre, and even though there might have been a temptation for them to send over a second-string squad, what they’ve actually done is brought over most of their big guns. In many ways that makes it all the more pleasurable from our side, because we’ll have beaten their full-bore side twice in the same season if we do produce the victory we’re working so hard towards.”
Keen to improve on last weekend’s defeat in Montpellier, Wells added: “Montpellier aren’t the runners-up in the French league for nothing – they’ve got a huge budget and a squad full of international-class players – and at 12-3 down at half-time we were still in the game, albeit having to work extremely hard for every single thing.
“In the second half they rolled on some more big names who brought even more momentum, and it was a good performance from them. Better teams than us would have gone there and lost with the way Montpellier were playing, but ultimately we were disappointed to end up losing by the margin we did.
“It’s an opportunity for us to learn but I don’t want to keep using that old cliché - we just need to muscle up and do better.”
Turning the focus back to Toulon on Friday, he added: “I see it as a really great opportunity for us even though qualification is gone, simply because it will get us back on the horse.
“I never lose sight of the fact that when you’re up near the top and winning games you’re never really as good as people make you out to be, and conversely when you’re on a bad run you’re not as bad as the same people say.
“We know what we’ve got to do better, we’ve got to get that next win from somewhere, and what better time to do it than against a strong Toulon side?
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to put in a performance on our own patch and get a ‘W’ next to our name again, and we’ve shown already this season that we’re capable of it.
“With the greatest respect this isn’t a case of a Russian team flying over to fulfil a fixture in a second-tier tournament, this is one of the kings of Europe coming here in the Champions Cup.”
Newcastle Falcons team to face RC Toulon (Friday, 7.45pm, Kingston Park Stadium) is herepqs: qs:
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