Preview: Sale Sharks v Gloucester

Date published: April 28 2016

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Sale have made one change to their side that will face Gloucester at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday, with Cameron Neild included on the flank.

Neild's inclusion means Mark Easter moves to the bench and TJ Ioane switches to number eight.

Elsewhere, Mark Jennings comes onto the bench to replace Tom Brady.

The Sharks, who are the only side in the competition with an unbeaten home record this season, must win this game to stay in contention for a top four spot.

"Gloucester are a proven side, they beat Exeter in their last game in the Premiership. They’ll be coming to win," said boss Steve Diamond.

"We’ve just got make sure we can handle their players. They have a big forward pack, so we’ve got to make sure we can handle those threats.

"We’ve got to make sure we don’t slip and play as well as we’ve been doing at home, we know Gloucester will be coming determined because if they win, they stand a chance of getting in the top six so it’s a big game for both sides."

Meanwhile, Sione Kalamafoni will make his 100th competitive appearance for Gloucester as he starts at number eight.

The Tongan international back-row is in his fourth season at Kingsholm having signed from Nottingham in the summer of 2012, and becomes the club's latest centurion. He will pack down in an all international back-row alongside Ross Moriarty and Matt Kvesic.

There is one other change to the pack that started the 16-9 victory over Exeter Chiefs last time out, Paul Doran-Jones coming in for John Afoa, with the All Black named amongst the replacements.

There is also one new face in the back line, as scrum-half Willi Heinz returns. Greig Laidlaw will skipper the side from the fly-half position with James Hook ruled out due to a back niggle.

Stockport and Salford haven't been happy hunting grounds for Gloucester in recent times, but head coach Laurie Fisher, previewing the game with the local media, stressed that he's looking for Gloucester to finish their campaign on a positive note.

"We know that we've struggled up in Manchester over a long period of time, but we want a good finish to the season. We know that it's important for this group to get a result up there which will be a real challenge," he said.

"They're not fifth in the Aviva Premiership for no reason. They've had a particularly good year, they're a really well-organised team, very physical and with a great track record at home. So, it's an excellent challenge and hopefully one we can rise to.

"We just need to control the controllables. When we play well, we defend well, we have a solid set-piece, our kicking game works for us and we have lots of energy and enthusiasm. That's your basic formula and we have to front up and do that.

"It's important for us to end the season on a good note. We know that when we're at our best that we can compete with all sides in the competition. We know our record up there is poor and that's something we need to address, starting on Friday night."

Form: Sale Sharks – the only side in the competition with an unbeaten home record this season – must win this game to stay in contention for a top four spot, at least until the results of Saturday’s games are known. Gloucester must also win to keep themselves in contention for a Champions Cup spot in 2016/17. Their victory at home to Exeter Chiefs in Round 20 ended a four match losing run in Premiership rugby. Gloucester have won just once away from home in the tournament since Round 1 – in Round 11 at Bath. Gloucester’s most recent victory on Sale soil in Premiership Rugby was at Heywood Road in September 2001.

The teams:

Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Will Addison, 13 Sam James, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Nev Edwards, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 TJ Ioane, 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 Mark Easter, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mark Jennings

Gloucester:  15 Tom Marshall, 14 Rob Cook, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Greig Laidlaw (c), 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Paul Doran-Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Luke Cole, 17 Nick Wood, 18 John Afoa, 19 Ben Morgan, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Lewis Ludlow

Date: Friday, April 29
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 19:45 BST (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell, Simon McConnell
TMO: Stuart Terheege

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