Sale Sharks have named their side to face Bath Rugby in their Gallagher Premiership opener at the AJ Bell Stadium tomorrow afternoon (Saturday 18th September – kick-off 5:00pm).
Director of Rugby Alex Sanderson names an exciting mix of youthful exuberance and Premiership experience to kick-start the Sharks’ 2021/22 campaign, with a second start for 20 year old scrum-half Raffi Quirke. Raffi lines up alongside England stars Manu Tuilagi, Ben Curry and new signing Nick Schonert, while the returning Tommy Taylor takes his place among the replacements with academy products Cal Ford, Rouban Birch, Kieran Wilkinson and Sam Dugdale.
After back-to-back wins over Jersey Reds and Benetton Treviso in pre-season, the Sharks coaching team have had plenty of time to assess their options ahead of this weekend’s showdown with Bath, and believe they have all the talent required to be a force in the Premiership once again, despite missing several key international figures.
Academy graduate Bevan Rodd is rewarded for his fine form last season with a start in the first match of the 21/22 campaign. The England prospect lines up at loose head prop and is joined by Akker van der Merwe and the Sharks’ new signing Nick Schonert in an abrasive front-row.
All all-South African lock partnership of Cobus Wiese and the towering JP du Preez is deployed by Sanderson to combat a highly physical Bath pack. The pair have an energetic partnership of fit-again Cameron Neild and England international Ben Curry at flanker, with club captain Jono Ross supporting them at number 8.
Rising scrum-half Raffi Quirke makes second start for the Sharks following an impressive maiden season under Alex Sanderson. Sale’s latest academy star will look to impose his instinctive style on the game with the assistance of Springbok Rob du Preez at fly-half.
England International Manu Tuilagi and Sam James line up in the centres this weekend. And the dynamic midfield partnership have plenty of support outside them as Scotland’s Byron McGuigan joins Marland Yarde and Simon Hammersley in the Sharks’ back three.
Tommy Taylor is set to make his Sale return in front of a packed AJ Bell Stadium, as the former Wasp takes his place on Sharks bench well stocked with academy talent. The hooker is joined by former academy colleague Ross Harrison as a replacement alongside the current crop of Sale prospects including Cal Ford, Reuban Birch and Sam Dugdale. Will Cliff, Kieran Wilkinson and Rohan Janse van Rensburg offer plenty of cover for the Sharks back division.