Preview: Sale Sharks v Saracens

Date published: December 16 2016

Sale Sharks boss Steve Diamond has made eight changes to his side for Sunday’s Champions Cup clash with Saracens at the AJ Bell Stadium.

The big news is that Rugby League convert, Denny Solomona, who joined the Sharks earlier this week, will make his professional Rugby Union debut on the right wing where he replaces Paolo Odogwu.

The only other change in the back-line, sees Mike Haley taking over from Tom Arscott at full-back.

In the forwards, TJ Ioane replaces Laurence Pearce at number eight while Magnus Lund and Cameron Neild are preferred to David Seymour and Tom Curry on the flanks. Lund will also captain the side.

There’s a new second row, with Andrei Ostrikov and Bryn Evans coming in for Jonathan Mills and Josh Beaumont respectively, while Halani Aulika takes over from Brian Mujati at tighthead prop.

Speaking ahead of the game, Diamond said: “Saracens showed what a great team they have when they beat us last weekend but we didn’t play well and you can’t afford one yellow card let alone three if you are going to challenge them.

“It’s been a tough week on the training field this week. We have some big games coming up, starting with Saracens. The lads are hurting at the moment and wanting to get back to the way we all know they can perform.”

Meanwhile, Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall has made two changes to the starting XV who defeated Sale Sharks in Round Three at Allianz Park, with Schalk Brits rotating with Jamie George at hooker and Jackson Wray retuning to the side after recovering from a knock to take his place in the back row.

Schalk Burger starts at openside with Mike Rhodes named on the blindside flank.

Petrus Du Plessis (tighthead prop) starts alongside Mako Vunipola (loosehead prop) and Brits (hooker) in the front-row. Maro Itoje and George Kruis continue in the Saracens second row.

In the backs, Owen Farrell (fly-half) partners Richard Wigglesworth (scrum-half) in the halves, whilst Brad Barritt skippers the side from inside centre alongside Argentine international Marcelo Bosch. In the back three, Sean Maitland is named on the right wing joining Chris Wyles (left wing) and Alex Goode (full-back).

Form: Saracens will join the mighty Munster sides of 2005-2007 if they can beat Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium in Round 4 to extend their unbeaten run in the Champions Cup to 13 games. You have to go back to the 13-9 defeat to Clermont in the 2015 semi-finals for the last time Mark McCall’s men were beaten. They marched to their first title last season with a perfect record of nine wins and have moved five points clear at the top of Pool 3 this term with three more wins. Sarries kicked off their campaign with a memorable win at Toulon before registering impressive bonus-point wins over the Scarlets and Sale Sharks. Sale have yet to win post a pool win and are on a run of 14 successive defeats in the Champions Cup. Their campaign started with a loss away to the Scarlets and there were further defeats at home against Sarries and they conceded 50 points at Sarries last weekend.

The teams:

Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Josh Charnley, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 James Mitchell, 8 TJ Ioane, 7 Magnus Lund (c), 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 James Flynn, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 David Seymour, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Mark Jennings, 23 Tom Arscott

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Nathan Earle

Date: Sunday, December 18
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton (Ireland), Jonathan Peak (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Picture credit: Sale Sharks website

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