Sale Sharks v Gloucester, Aviva Premiership, April 8
Resurgent Gloucester eye top two
April 7, 2011
Sale fly-half Charlie Hodgson is closing in on 1,000 points at the club's Edgeley Park home © Getty Images
Sale play host to Gloucester at Edgeley Park on Friday night in a re-arranged Aviva Premiership clash.
The Sharks are riding a woeful run of form that has seen them claim just one victory in their last eight games in all competitions - a narrow 15-12 victory over basement side Leeds last month. And the hosts have only registered two Premiership victories since October with their other success an upset win over Saracens in January.
In contrast, play-off chasing Gloucester's only defeat in any competition since New Year's Day came two weeks ago with Harlequins getting the better of them at The Stoop a week after their Anglo-Welsh Cup triumph.
Sale - Player to Watch: Fly-half Charlie Hodgson was in fine form against a dominant Northampton side last weekend and is likely to be a key figure once again if Sale are to halt their slide.
Sale - Team News: Andy Tuilagi returns at inside centre while Paul Williams is named on the left wing. Scrum-half Will Cliff will partner Hodgson and Eifion Lewis-Roberts starts at loose-head instead of Lee Imiolek. Sean Cox is back at blindside with James Gaskell switching to openside in the place of Dave Seymour.
Gloucester - Player to Watch: Lock Dave Attwood is handed a start and with it the opportunity to remind us of the form that elevated him to the international stage last year.
Gloucester - Team News: Gloucester make four changes with fullback Olly Morgan, centre Henry Trinder, hooker Scott Lawson and lock Dave Attwood stepping up. Tim Molenaar moves from outside to inside centre while Freddie Burns starts at fly-half instead of fullback. Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu is named amongst the replacements and Nicky Robinson misses out due to a hamstring injury picked up against Newcastle last week. Scott Lawson is a straight swap for Olivier Azam and Dave Attwood replaces Jim Hamilton.
Key Battle: The experience of Charlie Hodgson is likely to give his side a significant edge in the fly-half battle with Freddie Burns. The latter has started just five Premiership games for Gloucester this season - and on only three of those occasions did he fill the No.10 shirt.
Trivia: The most recent encounter between these two sides to have been one by the away side was way back in September 2001 where Gloucester won 44-21 at Heywood Road. Gloucester have never won on their previous seven visits to Edgeley Park.
Stats: Sale fly-half Charlie Hodgson has scored 999 points at Edgeley Park in all competitions.
"If we can play as we did for the first 50 minutes at Northampton last week and cut out the mistakes and tighten up on our discipline we will be OK." - Sale coach Pete Anglesea talks up his side's chances
"How you approach it, how you conduct yourself in an away environment, with referees, with field position, with control and discipline. That's going to be key to winning away from home." - Gloucester head coach Bryan Redpath offers a blueprint for success away from home
Fantasy: Gloucester centre Henry Trinder returns to the Premiership stage and if you fancy him to add to his season tally of three tries then he should be in your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game team.
Prediction: Gloucester re-discovered their swagger against Newcastle last time out and will kick on from there to re-write the history books and close the gap on Premiership leaders Leicester and Saracens.
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