Premiership: Manu Tuilagi returns for Sale Sharks while Handre Pollard set to make first Leicester Tigers start

Adam Kyriacou
Manu Tuilagi and Handre Pollard

Sale Sharks are bolstered by the return of England centre Manu Tuilagi, who starts against former club Leicester Tigers in their Premiership clash on Friday.

Twins Ben and Tom Curry both get the nod against the side coached by former Sale Sharks scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, while Akker van der Merwe and Sam James also return to the side after missing the pre-Christmas defeat at Newcastle Falcons.

On the replacements bench, veteran scrum-half Joe Simpson features for the final time as he brings the curtain down on a glittering 15-year rugby career.

Bevan Rodd is ruled out injured

Bevan Rodd misses out again after sustaining an injury in the warm-up at Kingston Park, so Simon McIntyre and Nick Schonert start in the front-row either side of hooker Van der Merwe.

Cobus Wiese and Jonny Hill continue their second-row partnership, and they are supported by Tom Curry at six, captain Ben Curry at seven and Jean-Luc du Preez at number eight.

Gus Warr and Rob du Preez continue their half-back partnership, and Tuilagi and James return outside them in the centres.

With Tom Roebuck and Joe Carpenter still missing, Arron Reed, Tom O’Flaherty and Luke James continue in the back three for Sale.

Scotland hooker Ewan Ashman, club stalwart Ross Harrison and James Harper make up the front-row replacements, with Josh Beaumont and Jono Ross covering the rest of the forwards.

Simpson, Tom Curtis and Byron McGuigan complete a strong replacements bench.

Meanwhile, Leicester Tigers interim head coach Wigglesworth has named his side for the Round 14 Premiership clash in what will be a special game for him.

Tigers travel north to take on the Sharks on Friday night in the final fixture of the calendar year for both sides.

Handre Pollard starts for Tigers

Wigglesworth has made just one change to the matchday squad from last weekend’s league win over Gloucester at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, with Handre Pollard named to start at fly-half.

Pollard’s inclusion – his first start for the club in just his second outing – sees Freddie Burns shift to the bench.

Anthony Watson continues in the back three alongside fellow wing Harry Potter and full-back Freddie Steward, with Dan Kelly and Guy Porter once again in the midfield.

Calum Green, who is also included among the replacements, is in line for his 100th Leicester Tigers appearance.

Form: Sale Sharks’ last four matches in Gallagher Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day. The Sharks have been defeated just once at home in any competition since April: 13-29 by Harlequins in Round 7 of Premiership Rugby. Leicester Tigers are unbeaten in their last six first team matches since their narrow defeat at Bath in Round 10 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby. The Tigers’ record on the road this season in Premiership Rugby is won two, drawn one, lost three. Sale have lost only one of their last eight Premiership Rugby fixtures against Leicester: 11-19 at Mattiolli Woods Welford Road in October 2021. The Tigers have not won at Salford City Stadium since a 35-13 scoreline in May 2018.

The teams:

Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Arron Reed, 13 Sam James, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Rob Du Preez (c), 9 Gus Warr, 8 Jean-Luc du Preez, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Tom Curry, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Simon McIntyre
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 James Harper, 19 Josh Beaumont, 20 Jono Ross, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Tom Curtis, 23 Byron McGuigan

Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Guy Porter, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Harry Potter, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Jack van Poortvliet, 8 Olly Cracknell, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 5 Ollie Chessum, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Charlie Clare, 1 James Whitcombe
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Calum Green, 20 Sean Jansen, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Chris Ashton

Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Greg Macdonald, Peter Allan
TMO: Claire Hodnett

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