Alex Sanderson has made three changes to his Sharks line-up to face Exeter Chiefs on Saturday (3pm KO) as veteran Ross Harrison replaces Si McIntyre in the front row, while Nathan Langdon makes his Premiership debut. The Sale Director of Rugby has also plumped for a 6-2 split on bench, with Tom Ellis appearing in a matchday squad for the first time this season.
Elsewhere, Rouban Birch replaces the injured Sam Dugdale, meaning Ernst van Rhyn shifts to the openside, while Nye Thomas replaces the injured Raffi Quirke (jaw) on the replacements bench.
In total, the Sharks matchday squad features 15 players who have come through the club’s academy.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game, the Sharks Director of Rugby said he was expecting a big challenge for his side on the south coast against a resurgent Chiefs team who put Saracens to the sword in round one.
He said: “We haven’t won down there since I joined the club. In my first six months here we went down there wanting to win and bring them back home for a semi-final. We were 19-0 up and ended up losing the game. I still haven’t let that one go!
“We’ve played well down there but to go down to Exeter and win – and not many teams do – you have to be a lot better than them in almost every area.
“They’re young, enthusiastic and energetic and if you let them get on the front foot then they’re super dangerous. I want to lean into some of the maturity and experience of our lads but we have to match them for energy and effort first.
“If we do that then I’d back our composure and decision making to snatch a win. But it will be that narrative – it will be a snatch because they’re a good team.”
Harrison replaces McIntyre in Sharks’ first prop-swap of the Premiership season. The veteran loosehead, who is approaching 300 games in a Sale shirt has started the previous games on the bench but he’ll start alongside debut hooker Nathan Langdon and tighthead Nick Schonert at Sandy Park.
Cobus Wiese and Jonny Hill team up again the second-row and the league’s most dominant tackler, Ernst van Rhyn, joins Birch and number 8 Dan du Preez in the back-row.
The backs are unchanged with Gus Warr again teaming up with last week’s Player of the Match and captain Rob du Preez at half-back.
Sam Bedlow and Sam James start together again in the centres, with Arron Reed, Tom O’Flaherty and Tom Roebuck picked in a pacy back three.
Thompson, McIntyre and James Harper are the front-row replacements, with Ben Bamber, Josh Beaumont and the returning Tom Ellis covering the rest of the forwards.
Tom Curtis and Nye Thomas are the backs replacements.
Sale Sharks Starting XV:
15. Tom O’Flaherty, 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Sam James, 12. Sam Bedlow, 11. Arron Reed, 10. Rob du Preez ©, 9. Gus Warr; 1. Ross Harrison, 2. Nathan Langdon, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. Jonny Hill, 6. Rouban Birch, 7. Ernst van Rhyn, 8. Dan du Preez.
16. Harry Thompson, 17. Si McIntyre, 18. James Harper, 19. Josh Beaumont, 20. Ben Bamber, 21. Nye Thomas, 22. Tom Curtis, 23. Tom Ellis.