Sale Sharks welcome back Dwayne Peel and Joaquin Tuculet for Friday's Aviva Premiership game against Exeter Chiefs at Edgeley Park.
Sale Sharks welcome back Dwayne Peel and Joaquin Tuculet for Friday's Aviva Premiership Round Nine game against Exeter Chiefs at Edgeley Park.
Also included in the matchday squad is former Auckland Blues flanker Onosa'i Auva'a, who is set for his Sharks' debut if he comes off the bench.
“In terms of our development, this match is the most pivotal game of the season,” said Sharks' Executive Director of Sport Steve Diamond.
“Exeter are a good side. They're very workmanlike, keep the ball well and they wait for you to make a mistake. If we can achieve parity at our lineout and scrum, we can get some joy out of the game.”
Meanwhile, Exeter Chiefs assistant coach Ali Hepher believes his side will have to produce one of their best displays of the season if they are to come away with victory on Friday.
Having just concluded the opening two rounds of the Amlin Challenge Cup with a narrow defeat to Perpignan and a comprehensive victory over Cavalieri Prato last time out, Exeter are clearly relishing getting back into the bread and butter of domestic action this week.
“These are great games for us and the reason why you are in the Premiership,” said Hepher.
“Everyone is excited ahead of Friday's game and there has been a different level and a different intensity to our training this week. We are fully committed to putting in a good performance, but at the same time we are aware we will need to put in one of our best performances of the season to get something from the game.”
Fridays' test, however, will be the first of many the Chiefs will encounter either side of Christmas – and according to Hepher such challenges are just the ticket for the Chiefs.
“The games will come thick and fast now, but that is what you want,” said Hepher.
“At the moment we are focused on this week and the Sale game, then we will move onto thinking about Worcester and beyond that. We have a good squad here and one which we will need in the coming weeks. That said, we have full confidence in whoever steps up for this team.”
As expected the Chiefs welcome back much of their heavy artillery for this latest clash. Head coach Rob Baxter opted to give many of his frontline stars the weekend off against Prato last Saturday, but many of those who took to the field in Perpignan return to duty at Stockport.
Indeed, there are just two changes from the team which lost 15-12 at the Stade Aime Giral a fortnight ago. One comes in the pack where Tom Johnson is preferred to Ben White in the back-row, whilst behind the scrum Frenchman Nic Sestaret will partner Jason Shoemark in the centre. Samoan international Josh Tatupu is the man who makes way.
Form: Sale Sharks ended a five game losing run in all competitions with their 59-6 success over Spanish side La Vila in the European Challenge Cup on Saturday. Sharks only win in their last four Aviva Premiership Rugby matches was 13-11 at home to Gloucester in round six. Exeter Chiefs ended a four match losing streak with their 68-0 humbling of Italian outfit Prato at Sandy Park on Saturday. The Chiefs have slipped to four straight Premiership defeats. The two sides have met on just two occasions with Exeter taking both encounters in the Premiership last season.
Sale: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Mark Cueto, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou (capt), 11 Joaquin Tuculet, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Andy Powell, 7 David Seymour, 6 James Gaskell, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Vadim Cobilas, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Onosa'i Auva'a. 21 Cillian Willis, 22 Tasesa Lavea, 23 Luther Burrell.
Exeter: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Nic Sestaret, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Pat Phibbs, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 James Hanks, 4 Tom Hayes (capt), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Neil Clark, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Simon Alcott, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 James Phillips, 20 Ben White, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Josh Tatupu.
Date: Friday, November 25
Venue: Edgeley Park
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth