Manu Tuilagi makes his long-awaited return to action for Sale Sharks on Friday night following seven months on the sidelines due to the achilles tendon tear he suffered at Franklins Gardens in October.
Director of Rugby Alex Sanderson names England international Tuilagi in an experienced matchday 23 as the Sharks prepare to face table toppers Bristol Bears at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Following an emphatic victory over Bath Rugby in round 19, Sanderson opts to limit his rotation policy in favour of consistency as the Sharks look to secure their first play-off spot in 15 years this weekend.
Bevan Rodd, Akker van der Merwe and Coenie Oosthuizen make up an unchanged front row after the trio’s impressive display at the Rec in round 19, while Cobus Wiese combines with compatriot Jean-Luc du Preez in the second row for the first time.
Ben Curry returns to the Sharks starting XV after a successful comeback from injury versus Bath. The ever-dependable flanker lines up alongside twin brother Tom and towering Springbok number 8 Daniel du Preez.
The visionary partnership of Faf de Klerk and AJ MacGinty will assume control of the Sale backline again this weekend.
Academy graduate Connor Doherty gets the nod from Sanderson this weekend and takes his place alongside ever-present Sam James in the Sharks’ midfield. The home-grown duo have in-form wingers Byron McGuigan and Marland Yarde at their disposal out wide, with the steady head of Luke James controlling the backfield from full-back.
Curtis Langdon joins Valery Morozov and James Harper as front-row replacements for the visit of the league leaders, whilst James Phillips and Cameron Neild provide further options in the pack for the Sharks coaching team.
The promising Raffi Quirke keeps his spot as replacement scrumhalf as Sale look to upset the Gallagher Premiership leaders in Salford. The England U20 star joins returnees Robert du Preez and Manu Tuilagi on an all-star Sharks bench.