England star Bevan Rodd makes his first start of the season and Raffi Quirke features in a matchday squad for the first time since April as Alex Sanderson makes four changes to his team to face Leicester Tigers in round four of the Gallagher Premiership (KO 3pm, Saturday, October 8 – live on PRTV).
Rodd is joined in the Sharks XV by fellow England internationals Tom Curry, Jonny Hill and Manu Tuilagi while prop Nic Schonert returns from suspension to face Steve Borthwick’s men at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
Tom Curry captains the side in the absence of brother Ben, who has had the armband during Sharks’ unbeaten start to the Premiership season, while Josh Beaumont returns to the bench alongside Quirke, who features for the first time since injuring his hamstring against Bristol Bears in last season’s Heineken Champions Cup.
Schonert and Rodd line up either side of the league’s form hooker Akker van der Merwe in a power-packed Sharks front row.
Fresh from another commanding performance in round four against Exeter, Jonny Hill and Cobus Wiese make up the Sharks second-row.
Of the five players who made the most dominant tackle contacts in round four, four came from Sharks – Ben Curry (seven), Jean-Luc du Preez (six), Akker van der Merwe (five) and Dan du Preez (five) – while the weekend’s top tackler was Tom Curry with 21 tackles.
And a Sharks back-row of Jono Ross and Tom Curry either side of Jean-Luc du Preez at number eight will need another big performance against a Tigers pack smarting from a 51-18 reversal against Saracens.
Despite Raffi’s return, Gus Warr keeps his place at scrum-half and he’ll line up at half-back again alongside in-form Rob du Preez.
The backs are unchanged from the win against Exeter with Manu Tuilagi taking his place alongside Sam James in the centres, and Tom O’Flaherty and Tom Roebuck on the wings.
Last week’s man of the match Joe Carpenter starts again at full-back after his try-scoring debut against the Chiefs.
Ewan Ashman, Simon McIntyre and Coenie Oosthuizen provide power and front-row experience on the replacements bench, and further forwards cover comes from Josh Beaumont and Sam Dugdale.
The backs are covered by the returning Quirke as well as Sam Hill and Arron Reed.