Sale Sharks face a stern test of their European credentials as they make their Champions Cup debut on Saturday against Munster.
Sale Sharks face a stern test of their European credentials as they make their Champions Cup debut on Saturday against two-time champions Munster in Salford.
Although Sale have conquered the Challenge Cup twice (in 2002 and 2005) they are yet to mount a serious assault on the top tier competition with their best finish dating back to 2006 when they made the quarter finals. They have never made it past the pool stagaes in their last four attempts.
Munster meanwhile are knockout stage regulars and are looking to recapture the success that saw them win European titles in 2006 and 2008.
“Munster will be looking at us as the whipping boys and that’s exactly how I want it,”said Sale Director of Rugby Steve Diamond.
“In these first six league games, we have lost to Gloucester at Kingsholm and away at Saracens and Northampton and there are some big sides with huge budgets,”
“And Sarries and Northampton both beat us comprehensively because we handed it to them in a lot of ways. So that’s the area we are working on.”
Munster won a higher percentage of their rucks and mauls (97 percent ) than any other side in the Heineken Cup last season and also averaged the most turnovers won.
“If you go through the history book you’ll see that Munster were never great before heading into a Champions Cup game and that’s often the case for other sides,” said Munster Head Coach Anthony Foley.
“Sale are due a due a big performance and that’s what we’re going to get. We’ve watched more than just last weekend’s game against Northampton and we know they’ve got an ability to turn teams over and score some very impressive tries.”
In terms of the teams, Munster have made seven changes from the side which beat the Scarlets last time out in the Pro12.
Ian Keatley and Paul O’Connell are among those who come into the side while Felix Jones returns at full-back.
For their part, Sale have made three changes from the team that was heavily beaten at Northampton.
Michael Haley comes into the team at full-back, with Sam Tuitupou included in the centres. There is also one change in the pack with Jon Mills earning a start alongside Michael Paterson.
Form: Sale have made slow start to their Aviva Premiership campaign, with their two wins from six matches leaving them languished in 10th place. Munster have also got off to an indifferent start to their PRO12 campaign. Their 13-14 reversal against Edinburgh gave them the wake-up call they needed and they went on to do an Italian double against Zebre and Treviso before tehy were toppled at Thomond against the Ospreys. These two teams have met four times in the Heineken Cup, with Munster winning three and Sale coming out on top in their first clash. It was the Englishmen who drew first blood with a win at Edgeley Park in 2005, with Munster fighting back and taking the spoils on the last three occasions – most recently at Thomond Park in January ’09 when the Munstermen triumphed 37-14. 2010/11 was the only occasion that Munster failed to make it out of the Heineken Cup pool stage since the turn of the century.
For Sale: 15 Michael Haley, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Tom Arscott, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Mark Easter 7 David Seymour (c), 6 Magnus Lund, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Jon Mills, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Alberto de Marchi, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 Josh Beaumont, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mark Jennings
For Munster: Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Denis Hurley, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Dave Foley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Duncan Casey, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Eusebio Guinazu, 17 James Cronin, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Gerhard van den Heever
Date: Saturday, October 18
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kickoff: 13:00 local
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Laurent Cardona (France), Thomas D