Sale Sharks make four changes to the matchday squad that was crowned Premiership Rugby Cup Champions on Monday evening, as Steve Diamond’s side prepare to face Northampton Saints in the penultimate round of the regular Gallagher Premiership season.
After a disappointing defeat to fellow top four contenders Bath Rugby in round 20, the Sharks’ destiny is firmly in their own hands with just two fixtures to complete before this season’s play-off positions are decided. Director of Rugby Steve Diamond opts for an experimental line-up for the trip to Franklins Gardens as he looks to guide the Club to their first semi-final appearance since 2006.
Loose head prop Ross Harrison makes a timely return to action for Sale this week after straining his ankle during match-day preparations in round 17. The club stalwart is joined in the front row by in-form hooker Curtis Langdon and Springbok Coenie Oosthuizen who both started for the Sharks in Monday’s cup final.
Keeping the victorious second row pairing from Monday, the imposing Jean-Luc du Preez continues to impress and is joined in the second row by fellow countryman Cobus Wiese, who made his full club debut in the Premiership Rugby Cup Final.
Captain Jono Ross resumes his usual role at blind side flanker and adds to a star studded back-row including Tom Curry at openside and Daniel du Preez at number 8.
After a man of the match performance last week, Robert du Preez secures the number ten shirt and will have Faf de Klerk distributing inside him at scrum half. Diamond chooses to rotate his centre options once again as the Sharks head to the east-midlands with Manu Tuilagi replacing Rohan Janse van Rensburg in the midfield alongside Sam James.
Janse van Rensburg remains in the in the Sale starting line-up however, as the South African international takes his place on the wing for the Sharks in the first of Diamond’s experimental selections this week. The 18 stone powerhouse is joined in the back three by Simon Hammersley who moves over from full back to the wing for only the second time in his career to accommodate the in-form Luke James in the fifteen shirt.
Internationals Akker van Der Merwe and Valery Morozov join Jake Cooper-Woolley as front row replacements for tomorrow night’s Premiership clash, with James Phillips and Cameron Nield providing further forward cover from the bench. Will Cliff, AJ MacGinty and Marland Yarde will cover the backs for the Sharks’ trip to Franklin’s Gardens.