TEAM NEWS | Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks

Scrum-half Raffi Quirke is rewarded for his performance off the bench against Harlequins with a return to the starting XV as Alex Sanderson makes just one change to his matchday 23 to face Steve Diamond’s Newcastle Falcons on Sunday (KO 3pm, live on PRTV). 

Otherwise it’s ‘as you were’ for the Sharks Director of Rugby following his side’s second successive bonus point win last weekend. 

Alex has once again picked a mix of youth and experience in the front-row to face the Falcons at Kingston Park, with homegrown pair Bevan Rodd and James Harper packing down either side of England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie. 

In the second-row, Cobus Wiese and Josh Beaumont team up again, while in the back-row last week’s player of the match Sam Dugdale and captain Ben Curry are joined by JL du Preez at number 8. 

England scrum-half Quirke joins George Ford at half-back and they’ll have Manu Tuilagi and Rob du Preez outside them in the centres. Wingers Arron Reed, who scored twice in the 37-31 win against Harlequins, and Tom Roebuck and full-back Joe Carpenter make up the rest of the XV. 

On the replacements bench, hooker Tommy Taylor is joined by props Si McIntyre and John. Ben Bamber and Hyron Andrews make up the rest of the forwards replacements, while Gus Warr, Sam James and Tom O’Flaherty cover the backs. 

Speaking in his pre-match media briefing, Alex praised his side’s performance against Harlequins, but said there were plenty of improvements to make ahead of the trip to Kingston Park. 

He said: “We look like we’re attacking well at the moment. It’s encouraging to see that layer of attacking intent come to the fore at just the right time. 

“There’s been a shift in our mental approach to attacking. George has been a big influence in that and his attacking prowess post- Six Nations especially has been brilliant. 

“Seeing the improvement has been really rewarding but there were clearly areas in which we could still be better. We had a real and honest review this week and after a bit of back patting, the other two thirds of that meeting were about how we can be better this week. 

“We’re aware of the Dimes influence but we don’t want the white noise to influence or preparation or performance. It’s obvious that this is the game they’ve been targeting and that’ve given us extra motivation. 

“But there’s enough there in terms of what we need out of this game to finish the season with some recognition for our efforts. That requires a win, and a good one. 

“We expect a reaction from them after a big defeat, but turning it back on to us, it’s all about backing up a good performance with another one. If we want to make play-offs, that’s what we need to do.” 

Sale Sharks Starting XV:   

15. Joe Carpenter, 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Rob du Preez, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Arron Reed, 10. George Ford, 9. Raffi Quirke, 1. Bevan Rodd, 2. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3. James Harper, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. Josh Beaumont, 6. Ben Curry ©, 7. Sam Dugdale, 8. JL du Preez.   

Replacements:   

16. Tommy Taylor, 17. Si McIntyre, 18. WillGriff John, 19. Ben Bamber, 20. Hyron Andrews, 21. Gus Warr, 22. Sam James, 23. Tom O’Flaherty. 

  • Newcastle Falcons’ only victory in Gallagher Premiership Rugby since January 2023 was 17-12 at home to Gloucester in March 2023. 
  • The Falcons have not tasted victory at Kingston Park in any competition since beating Caldy there 66-13 in the Premiership Rugby Cup in October.  
  • Sale Sharks have won their last two Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches, both at home to Exeter and Harlequins, following on from a four-game losing streak. 
  • Sale have not won away from home in any competition since their trip to Ashton Gate to face Bristol in Round 5 of Premiership Rugby on 11 November.  
  • The last nine Premiership Rugby meetings between the two clubs have all been won by the home side on the day whilst the Sharks have not won at Kingston Park in the competition since May 2016.  

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