Preview: London Irish v Sale

Date published: April 1 2016

London Irish have made three changes for this Saturday’s Premiership encounter with Sale Sharks at the Madejski Stadium.

England capped hooker David Paice gets the nod ahead of Tom Cruse in the front row, while Jebb Sinclair replaces Elliott Stooke who has returned to Gloucester following a loan spell with the club.

The Exiles have made just one change in the backline with Tom Fowlie coming in for Topsy Ojo on the wing as Tom Coventry’s side eye successive victories on home soil following the St Patrick’s Day Game triumph over Gloucester.

Last week’s narrow 12-6 defeat at Worcester Warriors also garnered a losing bonus point for the Exiles, cutting the gap on Newcastle Falcons to just four points at the foot of the table.

Assistant coach Richard Whiffin is anticipating a stern test from a Sale outfit, harbouring a top six Champions Cup berth come May.

“It is going to be a huge game for us at the Madejski, and we have been in good form there of late,” said Whiffin.

“We have won four out of our last five home games, and this weekend is an opportunity for us to get more points on the board going into the Newcastle game in a fortnight’s time."

Meanwhile, Sale boss Steve Diamond has opted to make two changes to the side which beat Leicester last weekend, with Brian Mujati and Andrei Ostrikov coming into the starting XV.

They replace Vadim Cobilas and Jonathan Mills, who are both on the bench.

Tommy Taylor will be making his 100th appearance for the Sharks, since joining the club back in 2011. Captain David Seymour will be making his 200th appearance in the Premiership. 

Form: London Irish's only victory in their last seven Aviva Premiership Rugby clashes was 23-18 at home to Gloucester in round 17. The Exiles have lost just twice at Madejski Stadium since November: to Grenoble in the European Challenge Cup in January and to Exeter in Premiership Rugby the following month. Sale Sharks last four games have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst their only away victory in Aviva Premiership rugby since February 2015 came on a trip to Leicester in round 11. The last five encounters between the two clubs have gone in favour of the home side whilst Sale have not been victorious in Reading since October 2006.

The teams:

London Irish: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Tom Fowlie, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Andrew Fenby, 10 Greig Tonks, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Luke Narraway (c), 5 Matt Symons, 4 Jebb Sinclair, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 David Paice, 1 Tom Court
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Tom Smallbone, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Jerry Sexton, 20 Rob McCusker, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Theo Brophy Clews, 23 Fergus Mulchrone

Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Will Addison, 13 Sam James, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Nev Edwards, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Mark Easter, 7 David Seymour (c), 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Eifion Lewis Roberts
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Vadim Cobilas, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 Magnus Lund, 21 TJ Ioane, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Tom Brady

Date: Saturday, April 2
Venue: Madejski Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Roger Baileff, Roy Maybank
TMO: Sean Davey