Gloucester v Sale, Aviva Premiership, May 7
Gloucester target play-off berth
May 6, 2011
Sale centre Andy Tuilagi takes on the Gloucester defence during their clash at Edgeley Park © Getty Images
Gloucester will look to cement their place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs when they tackle Sale at Kingsholm on Saturday.
The third-placed Cherry and Whites are currently on course for the post-season but they place is not assured with Northampton and Bath still in the mix ahead of an enthralling final round of action. Bryan Redpath's side need just one point to seal the deal and are the only side to have an unbeaten record at home this season. However, they are currently suffering a slump with just one win in their last five outings.
Sale's season is all but over with relegation no longer a fear and European qualification out of reach but with many changes expected in the summer, the current crop of Sharks will be determined to complete a notable double over Gloucester having claimed a 36-31 victory at Edgeley Park last month.
Gloucester - Player to Watch: Winger Charlie Sharples is in the running for the Premiership's Young Player of the Year award next week and will no doubt offer a reminder of his class.
Gloucester - Team News: Nicky Robinson is back at fly-half after shaking off a dead leg and Rory Lawson returns to the No.9 shirt in the only other change to the back line. There are more changes to the pack where only Scott Lawson and Alasdair Strokosch retain their places in the starting line up. As a result props Nick Wood and Paul Doran-Jones, locks Dave Atwood and Alex Brown, flanker Akapus Quera and No.8 Luke Narraway return to the front line. Meanwhile, there is a welcome return to the matchday squad for Lesley Vainikolo for the first time since injuring a shoulder at Leeds in January.
Sale - Player to Watch: A loyal servant of the Sharks over many years, fly-half Charlie Hodgson will make his final appearance for the club at Kingsholm.
Sale - Team News: The Sharks ring the changes in the wake of their defeat to Exeter last time out with Ian Thornley coming in on the right wing and Kyle Tonetti at inside centre. Eifion Roberts and Simon McIntyre will prop the scrum with Nic Rouse and Chris Jones forming a new-look second row.
Key Battle: No.8 Luke Narraway has often been at the heart of everything good about Gloucester this season but may not get everything his own way with the likes of Sisa Koyamaibole looming large for Sale.
Trivia: The last 16 clashes between these two sides have been won by the homes side while Sale have not won at Kingsholm since 2000.
Stats: Departing Sale fly-half has scored 1,863 points to date during his 11 seasons with the Sharks.
"We have everything to gain and Sale have nothing to lose. They're playing for pride and that makes them a dangerous animal." - Gloucester head coach is wary of the Sharks
"If you play a competitive game, you get the respect and applause of what will be a sell-out crowd. If you go down with your tail between your legs, you will get a good hiding and no respect and that will bear on the mind of the players that are leaving." - Sale boss Steve Diamond issues a warning to his players
Fantasy: Injury has disrupted the try-scoring exploits of Gloucester wing James Simpson-Daniel but the smart money may back him for a flourish before the end of the season. Time to change your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game line-up?
Prediction: Gloucester to re-discover their spark in time for the post-season and preserve their superb home record.
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