Preview: Sale Sharks v Bristol

Date published: December 30 2016

Sale Sharks have named their side to take on Bristol in their Premiership clash at the AJ Bell Stadium on New Year's Day.

Steve Diamond has opted to make four changes and a positional switch to the side which lost last Friday to Northampton.

Josh Beaumont starts at number eight, replacing TJ Ioane, who takes his place on the bench. Sam James starts at fly-half, with James Mitchell partnering him at scrum-half. There is also a welcome return for Sam Tuitupou who slots in at inside centre, alongside Johnny Leota.

Jonathan Mills comes into the starting XV, and will make his 100th appearance for the Sharks, alongside Andrei Ostrikov.

Speaking ahead of the game, Diamond said: "Bristol travel to the AJ Bell Stadium in good form. Playing with 14 men for nearly 70 minutes and outscoring Worcester three tries to two shows the improvement they have made over the past couple of months. We have trained hard this week and done our preparation work ahead of the game and we are all aware what we need to do, but it won’t be easy and a good game of rugby is in prospect."

Meanwhile, Thretton Palamo returns to the midfield when Bristol face Sale Sharks.

The USA international is the only change to Head Coach Mark Tainton’s starting line-up, as Bristol go in search of a fourth successive win in all competitions.

Tom Varndell – who has seven tries in his last three outings – is one score away from equaling the Premiership’s all-time try-scoring record.

Luke Arscott comes into the 23-man squad on the replacements bench, while Olly Robinson continues as captain for the AJ Bell Stadium clash.

"Everybody is in good spirits following the Boxing Day win and there has been a good buzz around the training ground in the build-up to this game," said Tainton. "But we won’t get ahead ourselves – that performance counts for nothing unless we back it up again this weekend against a very good Sale outfit.

"We go into the game with good momentum, but it’s important we stick to our structures and play with the same commitment and never-say-die attitude that served us so well in our last outing. We know there will be a big West Country following and we’re excited about the challenge ahead."

Form: Sale Sharks have lost their last seven matches in all tournaments since beating Wasps 17-13 at AJ Bell Stadium in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on November 4. The Sharks solitary victory in Premiership Rugby since early October came on the visit to Bristol in Round Seven. Bristol obtained their first win in Premiership Rugby for seven years against Worcester on Boxing Day and have not won successive matches in the competition since March 2008, which coincidently were their most recent away victories in the competition, at Leeds and at Newcastle. Sale have won their last five encounters with Bristol in Premiership Rugby since Bristol’s 10-6 victory at Edgeley Park exactly a decade ago. Bristol have however beaten the Sharks this season 26-11 in the Anglo-Welsh Cup at Ashton Gate in November.

The teams:

Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Josh Charnley, 10 Sam James, 9 James Mitchell, 8 Josh Beaumont (c), 7 Magnus Lund, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Jonathan Mills, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 James Flynn, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 Ben Curry, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 AJ MacGinty, 23 Byron McGuigan

Bristol: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Jack Wallace, 13 Thretton Palamo 12 Will Hurrell, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Will Cliff, 
8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Olly Robinson (c), 6 Nick Fenton-Wells, 5 Ben Glynn, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Gaston Cortes, 2 Rob Hawkins, 1 Ryan Bevington
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 James Phillips, 20 Mark Sorenson, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Luke Arscott.

Date: Sunday, January 1
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Time: 14:30 Local
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla, Andrew Jackson
TMO: Keith Lewis