Leeds v Sale, Aviva Premiership, October 22
Leeds eye opening win
October 21, 2010
Ceiron Thomas starts at fullback for Leeds © Getty Images
The opening weeks of the Aviva Premiership season were not kind to Leeds but they have an opportunity to turn the corner and pick up a first win of the campaign against Sale at Headingley on Friday (kick-off 19.45).
The home side lost out to French heavyweights Stade Francais in last weekend's European Challenge Cup action while Sale were racking up their second big win in as many weeks against Petrarca Padova.
Leeds did however show flashes of a more coherent and dangerous game against Stade - who were forced to mount a late comeback - and will be driven by a fierce desire in front of their home fans this weekend.
Leeds - Player to Watch: Ceiron Thomas has been shifted to fullback but his boot will likely play a telling role in deciding the outcome of this one.
Leeds - Team News: Michael Stephenson replaces Semi Tadulala on the wing and Scott Mathie returns at scrum-half. Up front, Kearnan Myall and Daniel Browne are both restored to the back-row.
Sale - Player to Watch: Openside Neil McMillan will have to shut down Leeds' star man - the abrasive Hendre Fourie - if they are to generate any momentum.
Sale - Team News: Charlie Hodgson is partnered by Will Cliff at halfback while on the bench, England Under-20 prop Henry Thomas could make his debut.
Key Battle: It's likely to be a game fought at close quarters and both Hodgson and Thomas will need to make their opportunities at goal pay. Hodgson will also have to contend with the more direct style of Lachlan Mackay at fly-half for Leeds.
Trivia: The referee for the game is France's Jerome Garces, who is taking charge of his second Premiership fixture.
Stats: Sale must look back to their last visit to Headingley, in November 2009, for their last away win in the Premiership.
Quote Unquote:"Looking back to last weekend's game, a real positive for us was the fact that we created lots of opportunities in what was probably our best performance of the season so far. The fact that we performed so well did not come as a surprised to anyone within our environment." - Leeds coach Neil Back
"Leeds are looking for a first Premiership win to kick-start their season, and we've picked a squad to compete. Leeds have a pretty consistent set piece - good scrum and lineout. Against Stade, I was quite impressed how they kept ball in hand, and made a couple of key breaks." - Sale coach Mike Brewer
Fantasy: Charlie Hodgson is one of the most reliable kickers in the Premiership - can he bag a hatful in the ESPN Premiership Rugby Fantasy Game?
Prediction: Leeds will take great heart despite last weekend's loss to Stade and given Sale's poor away record in the Premiership they should notch their first win of the campaign.
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