Sale v Harlequins, Friday, September 17, KO 7.45pm
Sale size up Quins
September 16, 2010
Former Leicester centre Ollie Smith will make his Premiership debut for Quins © Getty Images
Sale and Harlequins meet at Edgeley Park on Friday night with both sides looking to generate some much-needed momentum after stuttering starts to the Premiership season.
Sale's crunching defeat of Newcastle Falcons in their first appearance at home was put into perspective nine days later as they leaked 28 points to Saracens at Vicarage Road. Sale's mood was further darkened by fears that young captain James Gaskell had fractured his leg during the game, but those anxieties were allayed and he will start on Friday.
After their draining opening weekend draw with London Wasps, Harlequins went down to a narrow defeat at the hands of Northampton at the Twickenham Stoop in their latest outing. However, director of rugby Conor O'Shea saw enough in the performance against the Saints to maintain that Quins will "put some teams to the sword because we are creating a shed-load of opportunities".
Sale - Player to Watch: Sisa Koyamaibole will have to provide some heavy-duty ball-carrying in the absence of Andrew Sheridan and with an inexperienced backline.
Sale - Team News: Matty James comes in at fly-half with Nick MacLeod moving into the centres. Gaskell is fit while Sheridan moves to the bench.
Harlequins - Player to Watch: Ollie Smith will be desperate to prove that he can still make an impact in the Premiership in his first competitive start for Quins.
Harlequins - Team News: Smith replaces Ugo Monye, who is sidelined due to a toe injury. Tom Guest will play No.8 with Nick Easter moving to the second row.
Key Battle: Lineout time. Nick Easter's second row credentials will be put to the test by the ultra-mobile and energetic James Gaskell.
Trivia: Harlequins have not won away from home in the Premiership in 2010 and they have won only once at Edgeley Park in seven previous trips north in all competitions.
Stats: Quins fly-half Nick Evans and Sale's Nick MacLeod lead the way as the Premiership's top points scorers so far this season, both having scored 30 points.
Odds: Fancy Harlequins to sneak their first win of the campaign? Bet365 are offering odds of 5/1 for Quins to edge it by a winning margin of 1-5 points.
"One of the key things for us is our defence, our discipline. They've got key players in the 8-9-10 channel with Easter, Care and Evans and they're strong at the back with Mike Brown. We've got to stop them playing, and that will be the responsibility of the tight five in the pack" - Sale head coach Mike Brewer
"What he does show though is that there is still room for the little guy in the centre if you have the ability to step and play around the meatheads - which he undoubtedly does" - Former Quins star Will Greenwood heaps praise on current centre George Lowe
Fantasy: Quins fly-half Nick Evans has started the season strongly and is proving a points-scoring machine with 20 so far - get involved in the ESPN Premiership Rugby Fantasy Game now!
Prediction: Harlequins to pick up their first win of the season with Sale set to struggle to overcome a depleted line-up.