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Van the man returns for Wasps

Newcastle Falcons v Wasps

By Ben Blackmore.   Last Updated: 24/11/05 5:50pm

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Guinness Premiership, Kingston Park, Sunday November 27, KO 14.30

Wasps welcome back Mark van Gisbergen from international duty, as they attempt to add to the current misery at Kingston Park.

Van Gisbergen was released from the England squad for the Samoa Test, having been given very little chance to impress by Andy Robinson.

The New Zealand-born full back slots back into the number 15 shirt, as one of four changes to the side that beat Bath.

There is no room for last week's man-of-the-match Neil Baxter, who drops to the bench after his brace of tries at the Causeway Stadium.

The youngster's absence is due to the return of Stuart Abbott, who is selected at inside centre - forcing Rob Hoadley out to the wing.

Elsewhere in the back division, Jeremy Staunton remains at fly half ahead of England international Alex King.

Two more changes are made in the forwards, as Ian McGeechan's hand is forced by the recall of Simon Shaw to the international setup.

The big second row is replaced by Richard Birkett, whilst Ben Gotting is also preferred to Joe Ward at hooker.

McGeechan admits to being a big fan of the way Newcastle play rugby, and he is excited about Sunday's contest.

"They are a very positive side, and I have been very impressed with the rugby that they have played. Newcastle are one of the sides in the Premiership that do try and play some rugby," said the Scot.

Newcastle Falcons have put ultimate faith in young starlet Toby Flood, selecting him at fly half for the clash with Wasps.

Flood has only played a handful of games for the Falcons, but he will be thrust into the limelight against the champions due to the recent injury to Jonny Wilkinson.

The versatile back was highly impressive despite Newcastle's loss to Saracens, and director Rob Andrew has no doubts he is the man for the big occasion.

"I've been very impressed with Toby in the last few games. It isn't that Dave Walder has particularly done anything wrong, we just felt that for tactical reasons in this particular game, the way Wasps defend and the way in which we want to attack them, this time Toby would get the place.

"Toby has attacked the line extremely well from inside centre, a position he had never played up until a few weeks ago, and I see a huge amount of potential for him in both of those shirts."

Flood is supported by a strong centre pairing, as Jamie Noon returns from England duty to partner Mark Mayerhofler - who has finally recovered from injury.

The duo's selection sees James Hoyle and Dave Walder drop out of the starting XV, along with Ben Woods from the back row.

Newcastle are currently just four points ahead of bottom side Leeds in the Guinness Premiership, but Andrew is confident that it is only a matter of time before his side's class shines through.

"I know I've said it all before, but we have been in with a shout in every game this season, possibly with the exception of Bath at home.

"We will put somebody to the sword, there's no doubt, but we've just got to get out there and do it. I believe it, the players believe it passionately and it will happen."

Newcastle Falcons team: 15-Matthew Burke (captain), 14-Tom May, 13-Jamie Noon, 12-Mark Mayerhofler, 11-Mathew Tait, 10-Toby Flood, 9-James Grindal, 1-Micky Ward, 2-Andy Long, 3-Robbie Morris, 4-Andy Perry, 5-Geoff Parling, 6-Mike McCarthy, 7-Cory Harris, 8-Jason Smithson

Replacements: David Wilson, Matt Thompson, Andy Buist, Owen Finegan, Ben Woods, Lee Dickson, Dave Walder

London Wasps team: 15 Mark Van Gisbergen, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Ayoola Erinle, 12 Stuart Abbott, 11 Rob Hoadley, 10 Jeremy Staunton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 1 Tim Payne, 2 Ben Gotting, 3 Jon Dawson, 4 George Skivington, 5 Richard Birkett, 6 John Hart, 7 Tom Rees, 8 Lawrence Dallaglio (c)

Replacements: 16 Joe Ward, 17 Alistair McKenzie, 18 Mark Lock, 19 Garth Chamberlain, 20 James Honeyben, 21 Alex King, 22 Neil Baxter

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