Preview: Worcester v Sale Sharks

Date published: September 2 2011

Worcester trio James Percival, Shaun Perry and Errie Claassens will make their Aviva Premiership debuts against Sale on Saturday

Worcester trio James Percival, Errie Claassens and Shaun Perry will make their Aviva Premiership debuts against Sale at Sixways on Saturday.

Giant lock Percival, full-back Claassens and scrum-half Perry are all summer recruits and are rewarded for impressive form during pre-season with starting spots as coach Richard Hill sends his new-look Warriors into battle for the first time.

Marcel Garvey and Miles Benjamin, who between them scored a total of 48 tries in the league and cup last season, provide the firepower out wide while Alex Grove and Dale Rasmussen provide midfield steel.

Fly half Andy Goode returns to the top-flight of the English game and could go second in the all-time point scoring charts as he is just five behind England legend Jonny Wilkinson.

Goode will team up with former Brive team-mate Perry at half back.

Kai Horstmann will captain the team from the back row while Ed Shervington is given the nod at hooker and will partner Matt Mullan and Tevita Taumoepeau in the front row.

Former Sale player Chris Jones could face his old club as he is named among the replacements alongside fellow close season arrival George Porter.

“It is crucial, as the new boys in the league, to get off to a good start. We want to set a positive tone from day one,” said Hill.

“We know it is going to be a serious challenge for us this season and as a result everyone has worked exceptionally hard to reach the opening game in the best possible shape.

“The spirit among the players is excellent and the new signings have settled quickly.

“Some have really put themselves forward in pre-season and as a result James Percival, Shaun Perry and Errie Claassens are rewarded with full home debuts.

“The opening day of any season is always filled full of hope and promise for the year ahead and the Warriors are champing at the bit to get started,” he added.

Meanwhile, Sale Sharks will have seven players making their Aviva Premiership debuts in the season opener.

Andrew Higgins, Joaquin Tuculet, Joe Ward, Vadim Cobilas, Kearnan Myall, Fraser McKenzie and Mark Easter are the new men in the mulberry shirts, with Tom Holmes, Scott Mathie and Charlie Amesbury primed to join the action.

Tuculet, formerly of Club de Rugby Los Tilos in Argentina, Cobilas (VVA-Podmoskovye Monino) and McKenzie (Edinburgh) will be playing in top flight English rugby for the first time.

Cobilas was the first Moldovan to sign a professional deal with an English team when he joined the club in March.

Sharks forwards coach Stevie Scott believes the tighthead prop can make a big impact at the club.

“Vadim came in last season as an unknown, but Steve Diamond backed his ability, following his involvement with Russia,” said Scott.

“Vadim's worked hard on his fitness, and after his work during pre-season and in the match against Glasgow is worthy of a start at Worcester.

“After working with him for six months, I can say that Vadim simply loves scrummaging – but this is a big step up for him,” he added.

Sharks' executive director of sport Steve Diamond expects a tough encounter at Sixways.

“Worcester are a good side.They've come out of the Championship and have a lot to prove,” he said.

“They're at home; we're in transition. It's going to be a really difficult game for us.

“Warriors have a formidable forward pack with whom we'll need to compete.

“They played well in their games against Melbourne Rebels and Argentina, and are well coached under Richard Hill.”

Form: Sale have the slight edge in previous Premiership encounters with Warriors, gaining seven wins to five. Worcester Warriors return to the Premiership after a season playing in and winning the RFU Championship. The Warriors are yet to record a victory in the opening round in six previous Premiership campaigns, whilst their only reversal in their last 18 games last season was to Bedford in the semi-final of the British & Irish Cup. Sale Sharks have won in round one for the past three seasons, but ended last campaign with an unwanted run of three successive defeats. The Sharks' have not won away from home in the Premiership at anywhere other than Leeds since their 37-20 victory at Worcester in January 2009.

The teams:

Worcester: 15 Errie Claassens, 14 Marcel Garvey, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Dale Rasmussen, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Shaun Perry, 8 Kai Horstmann (c), 7 Jake Abbott, 6 Neil Best, 5 Craig Gillies, 4 James Percival, 3 Tevita Taumoepeau, 2 Ed Shervington, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Chris Fortey, 17 George Porter, 18 Bruce Douglas, 19 Chris Jones, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Jonny Arr, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Chris Pennell.

Sale Sharks: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Andrew Higgins, 12 Will Addison, 11 Joaquin Tuculet, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Mark Easter, 7 David Seymour (c), 6 James Gaskell, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 Kearnan Myall, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Joe Ward, 1 Lee Imiolek.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Aston Croall, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Tom Holmes, 20 Neil Briggs, 21 Scott Mathie, 22 Kyle Tonetti, 23 Charlie Amesbury.

Date: Saturday, September 3
Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Venue: Sixways Stadium
Referee: David Rose