Sale faces Northampton at the AJ Bell Stadium on Sunday: 2:30pm kick off
Sharks have made just one change to their starting XV
Jim Mallinder makes three changes to his Saints team
Today’s mid-afternoon kick-off brings together two sides who have been resurgent since opening-day setbacks, with both teams winning last time out.
The hosts Sale were thrashed 41-3 by Saracens in round one while Northampton suffered a shock 13-12 reverse at promoted Worcester.
But both Sharks and Saints hit back last week with today’s home side comfortably beating Worcester 27-13 at the AJ Bell Stadium last weekend while the visitors thrashed Newcastle Falcons 42-16 at Stadium: MK on Saturday in front of a 20,034-strong crowd.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sale Director of Rugby Steve Diamond makes just one change to his starting 15 with Samoan flanker TJ Ioane coming in after impressing off the bench last time to replace David Seymour, who drops out of the matchday squad.
Eifion Lewis-Roberts’ ankle injury aside, the Sharks have an entirely fit squad to select from, so this is arguably Sharks’ strongest starting 15.
In the other camp, Saints boss Jim Mallinder now has an embarrassment of riches to call upon with his World Cup charges returning to domestic action.
As he looks to keep his squad fresh, three changes take place in the starting line up with Lee Dickson dropping to the bench for Kahn Fotuali’i, Tom Wood stepping up as captain, while hooker Mike Haywood and lock Michael Paterson replace Dylan Hartley and Christian Day in the two other changes.
Northampton’s recent good record against Sale was ruined last time the two sides met with the Sharks winning 20-7 at the AJ Bell in January, ending an impressive run of wins. But it could well be a different story this time around, with Northampton beginning to show their potential. Northampton by 10.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Sale Sharks: TJ Ioane
In a solid performance from his side last time out, Ioane stood up manfully from the bench to help see his team mates over the line. The Samoan international has been a revelation since his arrival at the club in January and will be looking to take advantage of the opportunity he has been given today.
Northampton: Tom Wood
After a clinical performance, Jim Mallinder has opted to swap his captain from last week’s fixture. It’s a big call and gives Wood plenty to ponder going into today, with much responsibility sitting on his shoulders. But, if anyone can deal with that pressure, it’s this England man, who is one of Saints’ longest-serving players after arriving at Franklin’s Gardens in 2010.
Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Will Addison, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Josh Beaumont, 7 TJ Ioane, 6 Dan Braid (c), 5 Jonathan Mills, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 James Flynn, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 Magnus Lund, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Sam James.
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood (c), 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller,
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Christian Day, 20 Jon Fisher, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Ahsee Tuala.
Date: Sunday, November 1
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Gareth Copsey, Andrew Jackson
Television match official: David Grashoff
Timekeeper: Anthony Turner
Assessor: Rowly Williams