Preview: Sale v Gloucester

Date published: March 27 2015

Danny Cipriani returns at fly-half for Sale Sharks when they host Gloucester in the Premiership on Sunday.

Director of Rugby Steve Diamond believes that his players must win four of the final games to achieve their pre -season target.

"Normally 60 points would get you into the top four but because of London Welsh and that everyone is racking points up against them that 60 points has now become 70."

Returning from Six Nations duty Danny Cipriani said, "We are about to take part in five cup finals and we will be targeting all of them. It's going to be tough but we need to roll our sleeves up and get stuck in."

Meanwhile, on-loan centre Brendan Macken will make his first start for Gloucester.

Macken will partner Billy Twelvetrees in the Gloucester midfield, the latter returning from England duty to skipper the side.

They feature in a youthful, exciting back line which sees Junior World Championship winners Billy Burns and Callum Braley start at full-back and scrum-half respectively.

Up front, Nick Wood returns from injury to make his first start since early January. He will pack down alongside Richard Hibbard, who also returns from Six Nations duty, and John Afoa.

Elliott Stooke and Tom Palmer form a new look second row pairing, and they will be backed up by James Hudson and Mariano Galarza, the latter featuring in a matchday squad for the first time.

Gloucester have spent the past few days away on a training camp and having the whole squad back together has been a bonus according to Director of Rugby David Humphreys.

"It's given us a huge boost for a number of reasons. Coming off the back of the Six Nations, it's helped us to welcome back a number of players and do a lot more work in this environment than we'd been able to do ordinarily.

"It's been perfect conditions, it hasn't been too warm and we've been able to do a huge amount of work on the training field ahead of an important run of games for us.

"From Sunday onwards, we will need to build on the performances that we put in over the past few weeks, it's about making sure that the small margins that can determine games go in our favour.

"We've worked hard. We know it's an important few weeks. Going to Sale will be tough, we know they're very good at home. But we know that if we can perform at the level that we did against Northampton then we can be competitive against anyone.”

Form: Sale Sharks have lost their last two Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters, away fixtures at Leicester and Bath. The Sharks only defeat at AJ Bell Stadium in the tournament since the opening weekend came when Leicester were the visitors on 27th December. Gloucester's only win in their last four Aviva Premiership Rugby matches was at home to London Welsh in round 15. Gloucester have lost their last two away games in the competition since beating Exeter 26-25 at Sandy Park on 3rd January. Gloucester beat Sale 34-27 at Kingsholm in round 2, and have not achieved a season's double over the Sharks since 2001/02. The last time Gloucester were victorious on Sale's soil in Premiership Rugby came at Heywood Road in September 2001.

The teams:

Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Josh Beaumont, 7 Dave Seymour, 6 Dan Braid (c), 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Andrei Ostrikov, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Cameron Neild, 17 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 Magnus Lund, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Tom Brady

Gloucester: 15 Billy Burns, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 James Hook, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Tom Savage, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Nick Wood 
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 James Hudson, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Bill Meakes, 23 Ross Moriarty

Date: Sunday, March 29
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium, Salford
Kickoff: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Robin Goodliffe, Ashley Rowden
TMO: David Grashoff