NEWCASTLE FALCONS will field a strong line-up as they look to defend their unbeaten group-stage record in Saturday’s Premiership Rugby 7s tournament at The Northern Echo Arena.

Sevens coach Mark Laycock has selected a squad that blends first-team experience with emerging talent from Falcons’ junior ranks ahead of the seasonal curtain-raiser in Darlington.

Full-back Tom Catterick will captain the side as Newcastle look to extend an impressive record that has seen them top their group in each of the three previous Premiership 7s tournaments.

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Sean Brown, Andy Davies, Chris Harris, Simon Hammersley and Ben Morris all return to the line-up after making successful sevens contributions in 2013, while new faces include Sean Robinson, Lee Smith, Dan Temm, Brian Tuilagi and Craig Willis.

This weekend’s event, which will initially see Newcastle take on Leicester, London Irish and Sale in Group D, offers the first competitive action after six week of intensive pre-season training, and Laycock is expecting a positive reaction from his squad.

“The boys are itching to get started and are really looking forward to the Group D round on Saturday,” said the Falcons sevens boss. “They have been undertaking a very physical programme for the last six weeks and this will allow them to trail some of the rugby-based aspects they have been working on.

“We have selected a side that includes a number of players who have played in this competition before and we will be looking for them to use that experience and act as leaders out on the pitch.

“Tom will be leading from the front with his excellent communications skills and everybody will bring something to this squad that will hopefully make it a strong unit that can match the challenge from Leicester, London Welsh and Sale.

“Players like Brown, Morris and Temm will bring toughness to the game, particularly around the breakdown, while guys like Davies, Harris and Hammersley have some very nice skills that they will look to exploit.

“We’ve also got some very smart guys in the team like Smith, Robinson, and Willis who will be able to make the right decisions quickly. All in all, I think we will be able to give a good account of ourselves on Saturday.”