TEAM NEWS – Sale Sharks v Harlequins

Jason Woodward and Ryan Mills make their first starts for the club, while Byron McGuigan, Sam Dugdale and Ross Harrison add some experience to a youthful Sharks side for the Premiership Rugby Cup group clash with Harlequins on Friday night (KO 7.45pm, live on BT Sport).

James Harper and Tom Curtis also start, while new academy signing Rekeiti Ma’asi-White takes his place on the bench for a game described by Senior Academy Coach Gareth Harris, who leads the team, as like a ‘knock-out quarter final.’

In the front row the experienced duo of Harrison and Harper line up either side of homegrown hooker Ethan Caine.

In the second row, former Bristol academy players Alex Groves and Ben Bamber combine to make up a towering lock partnership.

Matt Postlethwaite shifts from his normal position in the second row to the number six shirt, and he’s joined in the back row by captain Dugdale and Rouban Birch at number eight.

England under 20s scrum-half Nye Thomas starts the game alongside Tom Curtis at half-back, and they have a partnership of former Wasps man Mills and Joe Bedlow outside them in the centres.

Elliott Gourlay returns from his loan period at Caldy to take his place on one wing, with McGuigan on the opposite side and Woodward making his first start at full-back.

The bench is a mix of youth and experience with Harry Thompson, England returnee Bevan Rodd and Joe Jones offering front row cover.

Dom Barrow and Ewan Murphy will cover the rest of the forwards, while Joe Simpson, Kieran Wilkinson and former Wasps man Ma’asi White are the backs replacements.

Speaking ahead of the game, Gareth said his team was ready for a big challenge against Quins. He said: “This week we’ve focused on making sure we’re as good as we can be. We know that if we do that then we’ve got a really good chance of making it through to the semi-final of a competition we’d love to win again.

“Results so far in the competition have been really good but in terms of our performance, I think we saw a massive improvement in round two compared to round one. The challenge now is to pick up where we left off.”

Sale Sharks Starting XV:  

15. Jason Woodward, 14. Byron McGuigan, 13. Joe Bedlow, 12. Ryan Mills, 11. Elliott Gourlay, 10. Tom Curtis, 9. Nye Thomas; 1. Ross Harrison, 2. Ethan Caine, 3. James Harper, 4. Ben Bamber, 5. Alex Groves, 6. Matt Postlethwaite, 7. Sam Dugdale ©, 8. Rouban Birch


16. Harry Thompson, 17. Bevan Rodd, 18. Joe Jones, 19. Dom Barrow, 20. Ewan Murphy, 21. Joe Simpson, 22. Kieran Wilkinson, 23. Rekeiti Ma’asi-White.

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