Sharks look to feast on toothless Tigers
October 28, 2011
David Seymour scored a crucial try for Sale in their win over Gloucester last time out © Getty Images
In a surprising reversal of roles, Sale Sharks host Leicester Tigers on Friday night hoping to maintain their hold on a play-off place while their opponents arrive in Stockport intent on pulling away from the drop zone.
The Sharks sit proudly in third place in the standings after a fine start to the season which has seen them win four of their six games to date, with their most recent success a hard-earned 13-11 win over Gloucester at Edgeley Park just under three weeks ago.
Indeed, Steve Diamond's side have shown plenty of heart and character of late and they will relish the opportunity to heap more misery on a Leicester side which has struggled horribly in the absence of their international contingent. The Tigers' 27-18 defeat by leaders Harlequins at Welford Road on October 8 was their fifth loss in six league games and they are currently languishing in 11th, in dire need of a victory.
Sale Sharks - Player to Watch: All eyes will be on England winger Mark Cueto as he looks to bounce back after a World Cup which saw him cross the line four times but eventually ended in disappointment. The winger will look to make the most of his time with Sale prior to the Six Nations and force his way back into the XV for the national side.
Sale Sharks - Team News: Wales No.8 Andy Powell will make his debut for Sale if he comes off the bench while there is a new pairing at centre with skipper Sam Tuitopou lining up alongside Johnny Leota. Richie Vernon starts at No.8 for the first time for Sale while Tony Buckley has recovered from flu and takes his place on the bench alongside hooker Joe Ward. Sale, however, were forced into late changes with Alasdair Dickinson and Fraser McKenzie injured in contact training on the Thursday. Vadim Cobilas takes Dickinson's place in the front-row with Wame Lewaravu taking Mckenzie's place in the second-row department. Lee Imiolek takes Cobilas' place on the bench.
Leicester Tigers - Player to Watch: Horacio Agulla is lining up at outside centre for the Tigers - an unfamiliar position for the Puma who is used to playing on the wing. Following in the footsteps of Manu Tuilagi is no easy task, so expect Agulla to put in a solid performance in the midfield.
Leicester Tigers - Team News: Richard Cockerill makes two changes to the side which dispatched Gloucester last Friday with Scott Hamilton recalled and George Chuter also starting in what will be his 250th appearance for the Tigers. Tom Croft also features in his 100th game for the club while the likes of Martin Castrogiovanni, Ed Slater, Steve Mafi and Niall Morris feature on the bench. However, Hamilton's inclusion comes at the expense of Manu Tuilagi who is sidelined for six weeks.
Key Battle: The front-row should see an epic battle with the experience of Leicester's Marcos Ayerza going up against hot prospect Henry Thomas. With England's Dan Cole and the relatively unknown quantity of Vadim Cobilas also featuring, expect fireworks in the pack.
Trivia: Leicester have won their last three matches against the Sharks. The Tigers have won twice at Edgeley Park in eight previous visits: in April 2007 and February 2011
Stats: The Tigers have the worst defensive record in the league, having shipped 194 points already this term
"The match against Leicester will be very tough - probably our hardest task of the season. We can't wait! Edgeley Park is definitely the place to be on Friday night, and we're looking to our fans to roar us on in this vital game."
"We knew we would need the whole squad to front up if we were going to push on this season. We now have all the Test players back with us and we've been working hard to integrate them as quickly as possible."
Prediction: Despite the Tigers rallying and producing an impressive performance against Gloucester last Friday, expect Sale to heap more Premiership woe on Leicester.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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