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Forgotten England blindside to make first appearance of the season

By Sam Smith
Mark Wilson /PA

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Former England backrow Mark Wilson is set to make his first appearance of the season on Boxing Day against Sale Sharks.

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The Newcastle Falcons captain has been named on the bench for their Gallagher Premiership home game against Alex Sanderson’s Sale.

Wilson has missed the entire season so far with a knee injury. The Rugby World Cup finalist had a meniscus tear that was operated on in September.

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Earlier this year, England boss Jones had outlined his admiration for Wilson. “He is one of those players that didn’t have the escalator through the pathway. He had to fight his way all the way. He was in the academy, got kicked out of the academy, he went to university, played university rugby, so rugby means a lot to him and he is a fighter, mate, he’s a 100 per cent fighter.”

Elsewhere Mike Brown will make his 250th Gallagher Premiership appearance.

George Wacokecoke returns after an eye socket injury, while scrum-half Sam Stuart is expected to make his season debut after recuperating from a broken foot.

“Sale are a side which will play in the predominantly South African way,” said Director of Rugb Dean Richards. “They’ll exit off their nine and use their huge pack, so if we go too expansive then it might play into their hands a little bit.

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“It’s about understanding where to play the game, how to break them down and when to strike. That’s the important thing against a side like Sale, and they’re a good team.

“They’ve got a lot of quality within their group, they’ll come here fired-up for the occasion and ready to play their part in a big Boxing Day game which is normally full of blood and thunder.

“We just have to get our act together in terms of understanding how we want to play, where we want to play and the pace at which we want to play.”

“Having a home game on Boxing Day is always a bonus, and is one of the first things that players and supporters look out for whenever the fixtures come out in the summer. I was brought up playing rugby on Boxing Day, and it was always a big fixture when I was at Leicester and we used to host the Barbarians.

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“I obviously played during the amateur times and probably indulged just a little bit more than the professional players of the current era in terms of tucking into the Christmas pudding and having a few beers!”

NEWCASTLE FALCONS: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Penny, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Pete Lucock, 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Sam Stuart; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Trevor Davison, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Philip van der Walt, 7 Connor Collett, 8 Callum Chick (captain).

REPLACEMENTS: 16 Robbie Smith, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Gary Graham, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Will Haydon-Wood.

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