Sale Sharks v London Irish, Aviva Premiership, September 9
Sale hope to bounce back against Exiles
September 9, 2011
Sale's Marc Jones offloads under pressure during his side's disappointing defeat by Worcester last weekend © Getty Images
Sale Sharks and London Irish will both be aiming to kickstart their respective campaigns after suffering disappointing defeats on the opening day of the new season.
Alarm bells are already ringing at Edgeley Park with the Sharks having slumped to a dismal 17-12 defeat at newly-promoted Worcester, their lack of incision laid bare once again as fly-half Nick Macleod accounted for all of their points.
London Irish turned in a far more encouraging display in round one but the Exiles still came out on the wrong side of a 29-24 scoreline in their Twickenham clash with Harlequins.
Still, they will travel in confidence because while their away form last season was poor - one win on the road in all competitions since last October - they have won their last four clashes with the Sharks.
Sale Sharks - Player to Watch: Henry Thomas was one of the finds of the season last term but with match time under his belt, he will be expected to push on in 2011-12. With the likes of Andrew Sheridan on duty for England, Thomas has a chance to state his claim to the Sale backroom staff.
Sale Sharks - Team News: Henry Thomas comes into the side at tight-head in the only change to the side which lost at Worcester. Vadim Cobilas drops to the bench and is joined by Neil Briggs and Jordan Davies. Rob Miller starts at fullback with Tom Brady and Joaquin Tuculet on the wings. Former Exeter Chiefs centre Andrew Higgins takes the outside centre berth with Will Addison at inside cetre. Nick MacLeod and Dwayne Peel line-up at half-back while Lee Imiolek and Joe Ward partner Thomas in the front-row. Fraser McKenzie and Kearnan Myall take the second-row spot while James Gaskell, David Seymour and Mark Easter form the back-row.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Marland Yarde has pace to burn and he will hope to show what he can do after seeing his fellow winger Topsy Ojo taking the headlines last weekend with a brace of tries.
London Irish - Team News: Clarke Dermody will captain the side and comes into the front-row alongside David Paice and Leo Halavatau. Nick Kennedy is partnered in the second-row by Matt Garvey with Kieran Roche, Alex Gray and Chris Hala'ufia starting in the back-row. Dan Bowden switches to fly-half and will be joined at half-back by Darren Allinson with Paul Hodgson having to be content with a spot on the bench. There is no place for Adrian Jarvis in the 22 so Steve Shingler starts at inside centre alongside Jonathan Joseph. Speedsters Marland Yarde and Topsy Ojo start on the wing with Tom Homer anchoring the team at fullback.
Key Battle: James Gaskell lines up alongside another young English flanker Alex Gray with the pair looking to set their stall out while England are in New Zealand. The pair look set for bright futures in the red rose jersey and will be going all out to impress on Friday.
Trivia: Sale have never begun a Premiership season with two successive defeats.
Stats: The Sharks have beaten London Irish just once in the Premiership since October 2006: 14-8 at Edgeley Park on January 9, 2009.
"Both Leicester and Saracens lost at the weekend too and lets be honest its not a six week competition we are involved in here, its played over 22 rounds. There were plenty of positives to take out of last weeks game"
"Sale is never an easy place to go even when they are missing 25 per cent of their squad"
Prediction: In a forward dominated affair, London Irish will prevail against the new look Sale side but expect it to go down to the wire.
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