Preview: Sale Sharks v Saracens

Date published: February 26 2016

Sale Sharks have made five changes to their side to take on Saracens in the Aviva Premiership at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday.

In the changes to the side that lost to Worcester Warriors last weekend, Mark Easter comes into replace the injured Josh Beaumont, and Ross Harrison returns to the starting XV to replace Eifion Lewis Roberts.
Andrei Ostrikov, Johnny Leota and Will Addison come into the side to replace Jonathan Mills, Sam Tuitupou & Nev Edwards respectively.

"We didn't perform in the first half at Worcester," said Sale boss Steve Diamond.

"In the second half we did. Saracens are missing some players but they're still a very deep squad, and a very good outfit. We've got to be at our very best to get something from the game."

Captain David Seymour paid tribute to the opponents, "Obviously they are where they are for a reason, they have a massive squad, so even during the Six Nations they are bringing in internationals to replace the players who are away. It is a different club from when I was there. A lot has changed, especially within the players and coaching staff, apart from Neil de Kock, he is still going strong."

Meanwhile, Charlie Hodgson will captain Saracens.

In his final visit to former club Sale Sharks before the record-breaking fly-half hangs up his boots at the end of the season, Hodgson will skipper Saracens against the side where he made 228 appearances before moving to Saracens in 2011.

Hodgson will be joined by Ben Spencer in the halves, with Richard Wigglesworth ruled out with a finger injury and Neil de Kock still side-lined Henry Taylor is named on the bench as reserve scrum-half.

In the centres, Nick Tompkins replaces Brad Barritt at inside centre, whilst Marcelo Bosch returns to the outside centre berth. In the back three, Chris Wyles (left wing), Mike Ellery (right wing) and Ben Ransom (full-back) continue.

Up front, Titi Lamositele is named at loosehead prop and is joined by Jared Saunders at hooker. Saunders who impressed in Saracens’ win over Gloucester las weekend comes in for Schalk Brits who starts his three-week suspension. Durable tighthead Petrus Du Plessis continues alongside Lamositele and Saunders.

Hayden Smith and Jim Hamilton are named at lock for a second successive game, whilst Kieran Low could make his Saracens debut off the bench with the Scotland international on-loan from Glasgow Warriors named amongst the Sarries replacements.

In the back row, Kelly Brown comes into the starting XV at blindside flanker, with Jacques Burger coming into the side at openside flanker in the place of the rested Will Fraser. Jackson Wray will start at number eight.

Form: Sale Sharks’ six game winning run came to an end with their 23-31 reversal at Worcester on Saturday.  The Sharks are the only side in Aviva Premiership Rugby who are unbeaten at home this season – their  most recent defeat in any competition at AJ Bell Stadium was when Harlequins were the visitors last  April. Saracens are the second best team in the Premiership on current form, along with Sale and Newcastle Falcons, all gaining 18 league points from their last six matches. Saracens only defeat away from home in any competition since April was on their trip to Harlequins on 9th January. Sale have won just one of their last seven encounters with Saracens in all tournaments: 14-10 at AJ Bell Stadium in this equivalent fixture in round 15 last year.

The teams:

Sale Sharks : 15 Mike Haley, 14 Will Addison, 13 Sam James, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Tom Arscott, 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 TJ Ioane, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mark Jennings

Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson (c), 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Jacques Burger, , 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Hayden Smith, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jared Saunders, 1 Titi Lamositele. 
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Kieran Low, 20 Michael Rhodes, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Nathan Earle.

Date: Saturday 27 February
Venue:  AJ Bell Stadium,
Kick-off:  13:00  GMT
Referee:  Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Matthew O’Grady & Simon McConnell.
TMO: Trevor Fisher.