Preview: Worcester v Sale

Date published: February 19 2016

New signing Francois Hougaard will make his Worcester debut in Saturday’s Premiership clash against Sale Sharks at Sixways.

The Springbok international is one of four changes to the starting line-up as director of rugby Dean Ryan goes in search of a third win of the campaign.

Hougaard will form the half-back combination with fly-half Tom Heathcote while Ryan Mills comes back into the side to partner Wynand Olivier in the centre.

Chris Pennell, Bryce Heem and Warriors top try-scorer Cooper Vuna start in the back three.

In the forward pack, Jaba Bregvadze gets the nod at hooker next to Val Rapava Ruskin and Nick Schonert with Donncha O’Callaghan and Darren Barry in the second row.

Dewald Potgieter is set for his first Warriors start at blindside flanker next to Carl Kirwan and skipper GJ van Velze.

Ryan said: “Every week is an opportunity. We’ve been pretty impressed with the effort of our guys especially last weekend in response to that blip against London Irish.

“Sale are the form team at the moment. Taking Exeter Chiefs at home is a significant scalp and they’ve got a lot of confidence. Steve Diamond does a great job of keeping them ticking along especially at home.

“We were frustrated that we didn’t get a bonus point up there so we’ll be looking to compete and put the pressure on at home.

“I thought the crowd were outstanding last time out. They give us every chance and we’re in a fight and need everybody helping us.”

Meanwhile, Steve Diamond has made four changes to the Sale side that beat Exeter Chiefs.

Josh Beaumont returns from England duty to start and captain the side, with Mark Easter dropping to the bench. Jonathan Mills, Tom Arscott and Sam Tuitupou also return to the side, to replace Andrei Ostrikov, Will Addison and Johnny Leota respectively.

Tuitupou will be making his 100th appearance for the Sharks, since joining the club back in 2011 from Munster.

Speaking ahead of the game, Diamond said: “They have nudged themselves towards the relegation battle but they are a good side, they have lost games in the last two or three minutes like we have, so we have got to play as best as we can to come away with something.

“With the form that we are in, we are targeting every game which is why we managed to beat Leicester and Exeter so if we have any ambition then we have to go down to Worcester, play as well as we can and try and squeeze a win.”

Form: Worcester Warriors only two victories in Premiership Rugby this season were at home to Northampton in round 1 and at home to Newcastle in round 4, they have however picked up four losing bonus points in their last six encounters. Sale Sharks have won their last six matches in all competitions – their best run since 2006/07. Sale’s only defeat in their last four away games in all tournaments was 17-33 at Exeter on Boxing Day. Sharks have not conceded a single try in an away game in 2016. Sale have won their last seven fixtures against Warriors in all tournaments since Worcester’s 23-16 victory at Sixways in October 2012.

The teams:

Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze (c), 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Na’ama Leleimalefaga, 18 James Johnston, 19 Dan Sanderson, 20 Phil Dowson , 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Andy Symons

Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Sam James, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Nev Edwards, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Josh Beaumont (c), 7 David Seymour, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Jonathan Mills, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Eifion Lewis Roberts, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Magnus Lund, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mark Jennings

Date: Saturday, February 20
Venue: Sixways
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Gregory Garner
Assistant Referees: Simon McConnell, Jonathan Healy
TMO: David Grashoff / David Rose