Preview: Sale v Saracens

Date published: December 5 2014

Saracens know that they can’t afford to slip up in the toughest of Champions Cup pools when they visit Sale this weekend.

After a dream opening weekend in which they picked up a maximum five points at home to Clermont, Sarries were brought back down to earth when they were sent packing in Limerick.

That means that victory in Salford is essential to keep the pressure on at the top of the group.

Fortunately for Saracens, they’ve managed seven straight wins over Sale, and will fancy their chances of making it nine over the next fortnight.

They’ve received a welcome boost to help them, with Mako Vunipola fit enough to make his first start of the season.

Owen Farrell returns from England duty and comes into the side at inside centre, with Charlie Hodgson continuing at fly-half.

He’ll be up against his former club, and one of Farrell’s rivals for the England ten shirt, in Danny Cipriani.

The Sale fly-half said this week that he hasn’t given up on an England recall and the next fortnight should give him a chance to show Stuart Lancaster what he’s missing.

Sale come into the game off the back of successive away wins, and have made minimal changes to the team that beat Newcastle last time out.

Daniel Braid will however be missing, and his absence could make a big difference for Steve Diamond’s side.

With two losses from their opening two fixtures, Sale’s hopes in this competition are all but over.

They will hope to put a dent into Sarries’ challenge however and maintain their recent run of good form.

Form: Saracens have won the last seven fixtures between the two sides, including a 40-19 win at Allianz Park earlier this season. Sale’s last win came in January 2011 at their old ground Edgeley Park. Sarries have lost their last two games to Northampton and Exeter while Sale have won three in a row in the league.

The teams:

Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Luke McLean, 13 Mark Jennings, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Josh Beaumont, 7 Magnus Lund (c), 6 Mark Easter, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Jonathan Mills, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 James Flynn, 19 Viliami Fihaki, 20 Andrew Highes, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Will Addison

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c), 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 James Johnston, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 Chris Wyles

Date:Saturday, 7 December
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium, Salford
Kick-off: 13:30 GMT
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)