Leicester Tigers kick off a new year with a home game against Newcastle Falcons in the Gallagher Premiership on Sunday (3.00pm).
Tigers have won their last 15 matches since defeat by Bristol Bears in Round 21 last season and made it 10 out of 10 in the league so far this season with victory at Bristol last weekend, sealed with a late try from Guy Porter.
Newcastle Falcons have been without a game for the last two weekends after cancellations in Europe and in the Premiership, and remain in eighth place in the table after a ‘declared win’ against Sale Sharks on Boxing Day.
They already have two away wins to their credit this season, beating Exeter 15-14 at Sandy Park in November and 20-13 at Bath in Round 2.
Last season’s meeting at Mattioli Woods Welford Road brought a 26-12 victory for Tigers with scores from Charlie Clare and Hanro Liebenberg plus 18 points from fly-half George Ford. The away fixture at Christmas 2020 was cancelled due to Covid.
Falcons last won at Welford Road in 2018, while their director of rugby Dean Richards made his 314th and final first-team appearance for Tigers in defeat by the Tynesiders in December 1997.
Tigers bring Porter, Matt Scott, Eli Snyman and Ollie Chessum into the starting line-up this week but there is no Jasper Wiese who begins a two-match ban. George Ford will make his 100th starting appearance for the club.
Newcastle full-back Mike Brown makes his 250th Premiership appearance, only the sixth player to reach the milestone, having been denied the opportunity on Boxing Day following the cancellation of the scheduled match against Sharks.
The Falcons also include Argentina centre Matias Orlando and hooker Charlie Maddison for their first appearances of the season.
Defence coach Nick Easter said: “Nobody outside of our group will be expecting us to get a result, but I can assure you the expectation within the club is really strong that we can go down there and get the win.
“Our boys will be absolutely buzzing at the opportunity of going down there in a cauldron of an atmosphere and getting into a proper battle.
“That’s what we love, and the characters that I’ve come to know here love working hard for each other and embracing that physical combat element of the sport. It’s the perfect game for us to get back into it after three weeks without a match.”
In a late change of referee, Karl Dickson takes charge in place of Jack Makepeace. It is his 51st Premiership fixture.
Check out the Matchday Guide for all your need to know before you get to the stadium, including the Covid protocols.
Round 12 in full
Saturday: Sale Sharks v Wasps (2.00pm), Exeter Chiefs v Bristol Bears (4.30pm)
Sunday: Gloucester Rugby v Harlequins (3.00pm), Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons (3.00pm), Northampton Saints v Saracens (3.00pm)
Monday: London Irish v Bath Rugby (3.00pm)