Preview: Sale Sharks v Toulon

Date published: October 20 2016

Sale Sharks boss Steve Diamond has made five changes to his starting XV for Friday’s Champions clash with Toulon at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Mark Jennings is set to make his first appearance of the season. Sam James starts at fly-half for the first time this season.

Peter Stringer has recovered from his bicep injury to start a game for the first time since the side’s draw to Worcester Warriors in September.

Magnus Lund also starts a game for the first time this season, replacing David Seymour, and Andrei Ostrikov comes into the second row, replacing Jonathan Mills.

Reflecting on the side’s big clash, Diamond said: “In football terms it’s a bit like Barcelona coming to town, because Toulon are the biggest club in world rugby and we’ll see how good they are on Friday night.

“The players have got a gameplan to put in place and if they get that right and put in a really good performance, then perhaps we’ll get win. By virtue of us not losing many games over the last four years at home, it makes it a difficult place for sides to come to.

“Toulon were beaten last week taking no points so the pressure is on them really. We’ve just got to do what we do well and perform at the highest level and if we do that we’ve got a chance.”

Meanwhile, Toulon boss Diego Dominguez has also made five changes to his run-on side that lost their tournament opener to Saracens last weekend.

In the back-line, James O’Connor replaces the injured Josua Tuisova on the right wing while Mathieu Bastareaud takes over from Matt Carraro at outside centre and  Eric Escande is preferred to Sebastien Tillous-Borde at scrum-half.

Up front, Romain Taofifenua comes in for Samu Manoa in the second row while Xavier Chiocci starts at loosehead prop in place of Florian Fresia.

Form: These sides have met just twice before, in the pool stage in 2012/13, with the Top 14 side coming out on top in both games. Toulon’s 62-0 win against Sale in their most recent encounter remains their biggest in the Champions Cup as well as Sale’s heaviest defeat in the tournament. Sale have lost their last four Champions Cup home games against French opposition, this after winning four in a row at home before that. Toulon have won four of their six away games against Premiership opposition in the Champions Cup. Sale have lost their last 12 European Cup games, these defeats coming by an average margin of 21 points.

It’s almost time for the second round of the Champions Cup, so make sure you check out our second betting preview for Betsafe.

The teams:

Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Will Addison, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 Sam James, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Josh Beaumont (c), 7 Magnus Lund, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 17 Halani Aulika, 18 Jonathan Mills, 19 David Seymour, 20 Tom Curry, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Dan Mugford, 23 Sam Bedlow

Toulon: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Francois Trinh Duc, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Charles Ollivon, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Mamuka Gorgodze, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Laurent Delboulbès, 18 Marcel Van Der Merwe, 19 Samu Manoa, 20 Matt Carraro, 21 Pierre Bernard, 22 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Jocelino Suta

Date: Friday, October 21
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 19:45 BST (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell (Wales), Chris Williams (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)