Sale and Saints square off in Stockport
September 22, 2011
Sale Sharks fly-half Nick Macleod has started the season in fine form © Getty Images
Sale Sharks will be looking to make it three wins on the bounce when they tackle surprise strugglers Northampton in front of the ESPN cameras at Edgeley Park on Friday night.
Sale appeared set for another tough season scrapping for points at the wrong end of the table when they kicked off their campaign with a dismal defeat at newly-promoted Worcester. However, the Sharks' long-suffering fans are daring to dream once more after seeing their side respond to their opening-weekend setback with a stirring home win over London Irish before then travelling to Adams Park and inflicting a first defeat of the season upon high-flying Wasps.
Consequently, spirits are high in Stockport ahead of the visit of a Northampton side which has lost two on the bounce, away to Harlequins and home to Irish, after opening with a narrow victory over Gloucester. However, while the Saints are undoubtedly toiling in the absence of their international contingent, they still have enough quality within their ranks to triumph at Edgeley Park.
Sale Sharks - Player to Watch: Andrew Higgins has made a steady start in the Sale midfield after his summer switch from Exeter. The former Bath man seems to be finding his form so expect a big performance from him at outside centre.
Sale Sharks - Team News: Sale make just one change to the starting line-up which shocked Wasps with Tom Brady coming onto the wing in place of Charlie Amesbury. Club captain Sam Tuitupou is also set to make his Sale debut after being named on the bench. David Seymour has been handed the captain's armband for the clash.
Northampton Saints - Player to Watch: Calum Clark served his club a boost with the confirmation of his re-signing with the club so expect an impressive performance from the blindside flanker.
Northampton Saints - Team News: Stephen Myler comes back into the side at fly-half looking to steer his side to victory with Ryan Lamb dropping to the bench. In the front-row Jim Mallinder has opted to shift around the props with Paul Doran Jones and Brian Mujati coming back into the side after starting from the bench against London Irish. Mike Haywood comes onto the bench in place of Andy Long with last week's starters Alex Waller and Tom Mercey also taking a spot in the replacements.
Key Battle: Sale will hope the experience of captain David Seymour will pay dividends against the new kid on the block, Ben Nutley. But the Lewis Moody lookalike has shone in the opening three rounds of the season and will look to improve his ever increasing stock with a solid performance at Edgeley Park.
Trivia: Sale's previews two wins are the first time they have recorded back-to-back wins since 2009-10. If Sale win on Friday - making it three out of three - they will have matched the heroics of New Year 2009.
Stats: Northampton have won their last five clashes with Sale and have been victorious in their previous three trips to Edgeley Park.
" We've been really pleased with our improvement from week to week, and know that we have to continue it against a very strong Northampton side. This game will, again, provide a good benchmark of where we are. Home games are most important to us, and we know our supporters will be in good voice again "
" Edgeley Park is a tough place to play and Sale try to make it as horrible a place as they can for opposition teams. We know it's going to be difficult - Sale are playing well and won their last two games. But we've been up there before and won up there before and are in a positive frame of mind for the trip "
Prediction: Sale were superb last week against London Wasps and will continue their great run of form with a narrow win over Northampton Saints.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Proposals to remove promotion and relegation from the Aviva Premiership would be for the good of the game overall, argues John Taylor
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery