Preview: Sale Sharks v Exeter Chiefs

Date published: February 12 2016

Sale Sharks boss Steve Diamond has made several changes to his starting line-up for Saturday's clash with Exeter at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Despite their win over Leicester Tigers last weekend, Diamond has brought in Johnny Leota to replace Sam Tuitupou, at inside centre and Peter Stringer starts at scrum-half with Chris Cusiter moving to the bench. 

Mark Easter replaces Josh Beaumont who is away with England with Easter starting at number eight.

David Seymour, who signed a new two year deal earlier this week, starts at flanker and captains the side. Magnus Lund is named among the replacements.

Speaking ahead of the game, Diamond said: "We've got to step it up another level. 

"They are a top side. We know they don't make many mistakes, and they are good at what they do. Therefore, we've got to be better than them in all areas. 

"I think it'll be a tight game, and a good game to watch, by the look of it, the weather looks good for Saturday so hopefully that should make for a good game."

Meanwhile, with Six Nations call-ups again robbing Exeter boss Rob Baxter of the services of Jack Nowell (England), Michele Campagnaro (Italy) and Tomas Francis (Wales), he sticks with a largely unchanged matchday squad for this game. 

The sole change to Exeter's starting line-up that lost to Saracens last weekend sees Jonny Hill recalled to the second row alongside the experienced Geoff Parling with Ollie Atkins dropping down to the bench at the expense of Lewis Stevenson. 

Otherwise, the Chiefs parade the same personnel that were on show last weekend.

Although disappointed to lose to Sarries, Baxter has stressed his side remain in a highly promising position in the Premiership and has urged his players to use that loss as motivation to return to winning ways.

“If any of the players are walking around now feeling a bit meek and mild and feeling a bit sorry for themselves then they will be the guys who get the rocket from me,” he said. 

“That is because we are five points off the lead halfway through a Premiership season and we have worked extremely hard to get where we are. 

“There are a lot of positives, so what I expect is for us to push on now and look to enjoy the second half of the season as we have the first half. 

“You don’t panic after results like Sunday’s, you learn from them. I’m expecting the boys to train hard this week and give themselves every opportunity to win up at Sale this weekend. 

“It is important in its own right as a Premiership game of rugby and we have to prepare well for it, but it is not make-or-break time.Seasons don’t come down to make-or-break times, they are about how you train and how you perform on a regular basis because things iron themselves out over the course of a season.” 

Baxter expects a tough challenge against the Sharks.

“It’s always a tough place to go as Sale play well at home,” he warned. 

“They have a good home record and they come into this weekend having just beaten Leicester at Welford Road. 

“That said, our focus is more on ourselves and the fact that we are a team in good form ourselves. 

"We’re playing well and just because we lost at the weekend, it should not dent our confidence because we know if we play well, good things tend to happen.” 

Form: Sale Sharks have won their last five encounters in all tournaments since their 17-33 defeat at Exeter in Round 7 of the Premiership. The Sharks are unbeaten in their last nine fixtures at AJ Bell Stadium in all tournaments since Harlequins beat them there last April in the Premiership. Exeter Chiefs suffered a first defeat at Sandy Park for over 12 months when Saracens were the visitors on Sunday, however away from home in the Premiership their only defeat in their last four trips was 3-8 at Northampton in Round 8. The last three encounters between the two clubs have all gone the way of home field advantage whilst the Chiefs have played on three previous occasions at AJ Bell Stadium, winning once in 2013 and gaining two losing bonus points in the others.

The teams:

Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Will Addison, 13 Sam James, 12 Johnny Leota, 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 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 Magnus Lund, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Tom Arscott

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Jonny Hill, 3 Moray Low, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Ben Moon. 
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Max Bodilly

Date: Saturday, February 13
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix, Robin Goodliffe
TMO: Geoff Warren