English domestic rugby action resumes this weekend as the inaugural Premiership Rugby Cup champions Northampton Saints travel to the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday to face a new look Sale Sharks side in round one of this year’s competition.
Sale Director of Rugby Steve Diamond has made it clear over the past few weeks that he will be fielding near to full strength sides in the Premiership Rugby Cup games this season, using the competition to make sure his squad are fully firing ahead of the Sharks’ first Gallagher Premiership fixture against Gloucester on the 19thOctober.
Diamond, now in his tenth year at the club, has overseen an impressive recruitment drive over the summer and admitted to members of the media this week that he has been impressed by all of his new arrivals during pre-season.
“We have just come off a great warm weather training week in Spain, and the team are edgy, they want to play. It’s been a very long pre-season.” The long-standing Director of Rugby went on to confirm, “We are running with virtually no injuries to the first team squad and everybody has stuck their hand up for selection over the past nine weeks.”
Sale’s first team selection of the season features seven new recruits, all three du Preez brothers will make their debuts as permanent Sharks players along with Gallagher Premiership stalwarts Simon Hammersley and Jake Cooper-Woolley who both make the starting line-up for Saturday’s fixture. They are joined in the match-day twenty-three by Akker van der Merwe and Embrose Papier, who will likely make their debuts off the bench.
Josh Beaumont captains the side in the absence of Jono Ross, who, along with Marland Yarde and Will Cliff are completing the final stages of their rehabilitation following surgery during the summer. All three players are expected to make their return in round three of the Premiership Rugby Cup.
Sale Sharks Starting XV: 15. Simon Hammersley, 14. Denny Solomona, 13. Sam James, 12. Rohan Janse Van Rensburg, 11. Chris Ashton, 10. Rob du Preez, 9. Gus Warr; 1. Ross Harrison, 2. Rob Webber, 3. Jake Cooper-Woolley, 4. Josh Beaumont (Captain), 5. James Phillips, 6. Jean-Luc du Preez, 7. Ben Curry, 8. Daniel du Preez.
Replacements:16. Akker van der Merwe, 17. Bevan Rodd, 18. Will-Griff John, 19. Bryn Evans, 20. Matt Postlethwaite, 21. Embrose Papier, 22. Luke James, 23. Byron McGuigan
£3.00 tickets for this fixture are still available at www.eticketing.co.uk/salesharkrugby