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Sale Sharks v Leicester, Aviva Premiership, February 25
In-form Tigers tackle toothless Sharks
ESPNscrum Staff
February 24, 2011
Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi carries the ball into the Wasps' defence, Leicester Tigers v London Wasps, Aviva Premiership, Welford Road, Leicester, England, February 19, 2011
Leicester cemented their place at the top of the Premiership table with victory over Wasps last time out © Getty Images
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Tournaments/Tours: Aviva Premiership

Leicester will look to strengthen their grip at the top of the Aviva Premiership when they tackle Sale Sharks at Edgeley Park on Friday night.

The Tigers are currently on course for a home semi-final with last weekend's victory over Wasps leaving them five points clear of second-placed Saracens. The Sharks find themselves at the other end of the table after they suffered their ninth defeat of the season at the hands of Harlequins last weekend.

Leicester ran in eight tries on their way to a 54-21 victory at Welford Road earlier in the season and Sale's most recent form also makes for miserable reading with the Sharks having won just one of their last eight Premiership clashes. In contrast, the Tigers are riding an eight-game unbeaten run in the league.

Sale - Player to Watch: Lock Chris Jones admitted this week he is at a crossroads in his Sale career and with his future undecided it will be interesting to see how he responds on the field.

Sale - Team News: Sale welcome back Wales international scrum-half Dwayne Peel as one of three changes from the Sale side beaten by Harlequins five days ago. Peel replaces Will Cliff, while a neck injury sidelines hooker Marc Jones, so Ben Roberts deputises, with Lee Imiolek taking over from England prop Andrew Sheridan. Carl Fearns was a late withdrawal with a knee injury and so Neil McMillan will start at No.7 and Chris Brightwell will take McMillan's place on the bench. Wame Lewaravu was also ruled out ahead of the game with an ankle problem and Sean Cox will now starts in the second row with Nic Rouse joining the replacements.

Leicester - Player to Watch: After appearing as a replacement last weekend, flanker Tom Croft is back in the Tigers' starting line-up and will be keen to impress England manager Martin Johnson.

Leicester - Team News: Croft returns having made his first club appearance since October with a run-out from the replacements bench in the win over Wasps last Saturday, while tight-head prop Julian White makes his first start since November. Jordan Crane (knee), Ed Slater (foot) and Matt Smith (hamstring) are ruled out by injury. Geordan Murphy, Ben Pienaar and Geoff Parling are also sidelined. Dan Cole, Louis Deacon, Toby Flood and Ben Youngs are on international duty with England, and Martin Castrogiovanni is with the Italy squad.

Key Battle: If the Sharks are to upset the odds their back-row trio of James Gaskell, Carl Fearns and Sisa Koyamaibole are going to have to get the better of their Leicester counterparts Craig Newby, Croft and the ever-reliable Thomas Waldrom.

Trivia: The last five meetings between the clubs in all competition have gone the way of the home side.

Stats: Leicester have only won once in their last seven visits to Edgeley Park - a 26-25 victory on April 6, 2007.

Quote Unquote:

"We know that we will have to show them total respect throughout the game and match their physicality. We also know that we need to be focussed from the first whistle to the last. Last week we leaked two early tries and it was an uphill struggle from then on." - Sale head coach Pete Anglesea

"There are seven games to go and we're just trying to get as many points as we can. Sale is always a tough place to go but we've won our last three away games and we should go with some confidence. It's all about getting results at this stage of the season. We're in a good place at the moment but that can change very quickly." - Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill

Fantasy: Tigers boss Richard Cockerill has been singing Many Tuilagi's praises this season and you will have been too if he is in your ESPNscrum Premiership Fantasy Rugby team. Time to change your line-up?

Prediction: The Tigers are on a roll and there will be no let-up against a Sharks side lacking a bite.

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