Preview: Bristol v Sale Sharks

Date published: October 28 2016

Shane Geraghty will make his first start for Bristol when they host Sale Sharks in the Premiership on Sunday.

The fly-half is one of four changes to the side that suffered defeat to Bath in the European Challenge Cup last week. David Lemi returns to the back-line, while Mark Sorenson comes into the pack for the Ashton Gate clash.

Gavin Henson returns to full fitness to start in the midfield – the British and Irish Lion has been absent with a dead leg since Round One of the competition.

"We haven’t changed much from the side that played at the Rec in our last outing," said Director of Rugby Andy Robinson.

"The desire and work-rate is there and we showed that defensively we are progressing. The key this weekend is to cut out the individual errors and really put Sale under pressure in the right areas.

"It’s a hugely important game for us and we approach Sunday with a positive attitude. We’ll have a fantastic crowd behind us at Ashton Gate and we’re determined to kick-start our season against a very good Sale Sharks side."

Bristol revert to a six forwards and two backs split on the bench, with Soane Tonga'uiha back among the 23-man squad.

Meanwhile, Sale coach Steve Diamond has named two changes to the side who lost out to Toulon last weekend to play Bristol. 

Johnny Leota returns from his two game suspension to take his place in the midfield, partnering Will Addison in the centres. Halani Aulika also returns to the starting XV, replacing prop Brian Mujati. If he comes off the bench, Mujati will make his 100th Premiership appearance.

Speaking about the game, Diamond said: "I think Bristol offer a different challenge. As the side that came up, they're still finding their feet to a certain extent but they're getting better every week so it will be a big challenge for us and we'll need to be at the top of our game to beat them away.

"We've got to look after ourselves and do what we do well without worrying too much about the opposition. We need to get our detail right, get our defence and set piece right and then we stand a chance of winning."

He added: "We have to get our detail right and go down there in the right frame of mind. We do that everytime home and away, it's just there is a big home advantage in rugby but we've got to overcome that on Sunday if we want to be challenging for the top four and top six."

Form: Bristol are still without a win in any competition this season, although in round 6 of the Premiership they did at least double their tally of league points in claiming a losing bonus point in their defeat at Newcastle. Bristol have conceded at least four tries in each of their last five fixtures at Ashton Gate. Sale Sharks’ solitary victory in their last five fixtures was 34-30 at home to Leicester in the Premiership on October 1. The Sharks have not won away from home since their trip to Newcastle on the final day of the regular season last year. The two sides have not met since February 2009 with Sale taking the last four encounters since Bristol’s most recent success in the series: 10-6 at Edgeley Park on New Year’s Day 2007. This is Sale’s first ever visit to Ashton Gate with their most recent victory on Bristol soil coming in November 2006.

The teams:

Bristol: 15 Jordan Williams, 14, Ryan Edwards, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 David Lemi, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Jordan Crane (c), 7 Jon Fisher, 6 Mitch Eadie, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 James Phillips, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Chris Brooker, 1 Kyle Traynor
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Soane Tonga’uiha, 18 Gaston Cortes, 19 Ian Evans, 20 Ben Glynn, 21 Jack Lam, 22 Rhodri Williams, 23 Jack Tovey

Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Will Addison, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 Sam James, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Josh Beaumont (c), 7 Magnus Lund, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 17 Brian Mujati, 18 Jonathan Mills, 19 David Seymour, 20 Tom Curry, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Dan Mugford, 23 Mark Jennings

Date: Sunday, October 30 
Venue: Ashton Gate
Time: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT) 
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Tom Foley & Andrew Pearce
TMO: Graham Hughes