We've reviewed the Top 14 sides, which the Sharks could be drawn against in the European Challenge Cup draw next Wednesday afternoon.
Montpellier Head Coach: Jake White
Stadium: Altrad Stadium: 15,697
Previous Encounters: Played 6 Won 2 Draw 1 Lost 3 1997-98: Montpellier 30 Sale Sharks 12 1997-98: Sale Sharks 43 Montpellier 3 2007-08: Sale Sharks 46 Montpellier 9 2007-08: Montpellier 14 Sale Sharks 14 2012-13: Montpellier 33 Sale Sharks 18 2012-13: Sale Sharks 6 Montpellier 27
Notable Players: Jesse Mogg, Pierre Spies, Ben Mowen, François Trinh-Duc
Montpellier finished eighth in the Top 14 last season. It is the first time they've missed out on the Top Six Play Offs since 2010/11. It has been confirmed that former Springbok coach Jake White will stay on at the club, having signed a two-year deal as a 'Consultant'. He took over the club, following the departure of Fabien Galthie. Compatriot Shaun Sowerby (forwards) and Australian Scott Wisemantel (backs) will act as his assistants next season. There has been huge upheaval at the club this summer, with 19 players leaving the club, and 11 coming in.
La Rochelle Director of Rugby: Pierre Venayre
Stadium: Stade Marcel Deflandre: 10,682
Previous Encounters: Never Played
Notable Players: Ricky Januarie, Benoit Bourrust, Sireli Bobo, Peter Grant
In their first season in the Top 14, La Rochelle finished ninth pulling off many surprises on the way. They beat Toulon at home, drew against Stade Francais, and beat Clermont Auvergne. They have strengthened from the signing of Ricky Januarie, the South African scrum half. They play at the Stade Marcel Deflandre in La Rochelle, in the south west of France. La Rochelle have a former Shark in their ranks with Benoit Bourrust playing for them. Benoit played four times for the Sharks in the 2007-08 season, and he actually scored a try on his debut against Gloucester. He moved to join Biarritz at the end of the season, and played for Biarritz and Perpignan; and then went to join Cardiff Blues and played for the Welsh side for two seasons before joining La Rochelle.
Brive Head Coach: Nicolas Godignon
Stadium: Stade Amedee-Domenech 15,000
Previous Encounters: Played 5 Won 1 Lost 4 2007-08: Sale Sharks 49 Brive 24 (Quarter Final) 2010-11: Brive 18 Sale Sharks 9 2010-11: Sale Sharks 13 Brive 15 2011-12: Brive 26 Sale Sharks 18 2011-12 Sale Sharks 9 Brive 19
Notable Players: Sisa Koyamaibole, Goderdzi Shvelidze, Nicolas Bézy, Dominiko Waqaniburotu
Sale Sharks have a long history of playing Brive in European competitions. The Sharks will come up against a former Shark player in Sisa Koyamaibole who now plays at the Stade Amedee-Domenech. Sisa played 49 times for the Sharks, scoring ten tries between 2009-11. In December 2010, the Sharks had to move their game to Galashiels due to freezing weather, and they ended up losing the game. They played the French side at Edgeley Park in April 2008 in the Quarter Final of the European Challenge Cup, following tries from Sebastian Chabal, Lee Thomas, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Will Cliff. Brive finished 10th in the Top 14 table this season, finishing on 53 points; only one point above the relegation zone.
Grenoble: Head Coach: Bernard Jackman
Stadium: Stade des Alpes, 20,068
Previous Encounters: Never Played
Notable Players: Gio Aplon, Peter Kimlin, Lucas Dupont
Former Sharks hooker Bernard Jackman is Head Coach for the French side. He's been in charge full-time since the 2012-13. He moved to the Sharks in 1999. They finished eleventh in the table, one point above the relegation zone. Fly-Half Jonathan Wisniewski was the top point scorer in the whole league, scoring 325 points.
Castres Coaches: Serge Milhas and David Darricarrere
Stadium: Stade Pierre Antonie, 10,000
Previous Encounters: Played 2 Won 2 Lost 0 2005-06: Castres 16 Sale Sharks 20
2005-06: Sale Sharks 53 Castres 3
Notable Players: David Smith, Rudi Wolf, Richie Gray, Rory Kockott
Castres got to the final of the Top 14 last season, and went into this season full of optimism that they could build on it. However, it was an extremely disappointing campaign for them, as they finished 12th, having avoided relegation by points difference. They have responded to this by strengthening their already strong squad by signing David Smith & Rudi Wolf from Toulon. The Sharks could come up against former player Richie Gray. Gray moved to the club at the beginning of the 2012-13 season, as they moved into the AJ Bell Stadium, before moving to the French side at the end of the season. Gray played sixteen times for the club, scoring one try against Worcester Warriors.
Pau: Head Coach: Simon Mannix
Stadium: Stade du Hameau, 13,819
Previous Encounters: Played 3, Won 1 Lost 2 1999-2000: Sale Sharks 35 Pau 53 1999-2000: Pau 30 Sale Sharks 12 2004-05: Sale Sharks 27 Pau 3 (Final)
Notable Players: Euan Murray, Colin Slade, Conrad Smith, Damien Traille
The Sharks took on Pau in the final of the European Challenge Cup in May 2005, and won 27-3 at the Kassam Stadium. Pau won the Pro D2 division this season, and have gone to strengthen their squad by signing Scottish prop Euan Murray, New Zealand fly-half Colin Slade & centre Conrad Smith. They are coached by former Sharks fly half Simon Mannix who played at Heywood Road for the 1997-98 season.
Agen Head Coach: Christophe Deylaud
Stadium: Stade Armandie, 14,000
Previous Encounters: Played 7 Won 5 Lost 2 1996-97: Agen 33 Sale Sharks 16 2000-01: Agen 44 Sale Sharks 9 2000-01: Sale Sharks 28 Agen 23 2004-05: Sale Sharks 34 Agen 18 (Quarter Final 1st Leg) 2004-05: Agen 17 Sale Sharks 15 (Quarter Final 2nd Leg) 2011-12: Agen 14 Sale Sharks 29 2011-12 Sale Sharks 41 Agen 21
Notable Players: Api Naikatini, Viliame Waqaseduadua, Viliamu Afatia, Clément Darbo
Agen won the play-off for the Pro D2, which means they have a place in the Top 14 for next season. They were relegated in 2012-13. The Sharks have a good record against this French team, having won the last five encounters against them. This includes a two-legged quarter-final against them in the title winning 2004-05 season. In the most recent encounter, the Sharks won 41-21 with Tom Brady & David Seymour scoring some of the tries. Fijian second-row Api Naikatini has signed up for the next campaign.
You can watch three European Pool Games if you get yourself a Sale Sharks Season Ticket. Call Paddy/Olly on 0161 667 7512/7519 or firstname.lastname@example.org your name & number for a call back.