Sale v London Irish, Aviva Premiership, April 16
Sharks to break new ground
April 15, 2011
Fly-half Charlie Hodgson will again be in charge for Sale © Getty Images
Sale Sharks, buoyed by last weekend's win over Gloucester, are hoping for a big turnout and result this weekend when they take on London Irish at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton.
Following in the footsteps of Harlequins, Wasps and Saracens, the Sharks are hoping to attract a new following, but will be up against it given the north-west's heavy representation in the weekend's FA Cup semi-finals, where Bolton's usual faithful will be enjoying a day out at Wembley.
The Sharks are nine points ahead of relegation rivals Leeds, with 15 to play for, and a misfiring Irish side present an opportunity for Pete Anglesea's men, despite a heavy loss at the Madejski and a poor return of one win from eight against the Exiles.
Toby Booth's side are five points off the play-offs and have played a game more than Northampton, at this stage of the season mistakes cannot be tolerated.
Sale - Player to Watch: Fly-half Charlie Hodgson has been in sensational form of late but will he make himself at home in the new surroundings of the Reebok Stadium?
Sale - Team News: Carl Fearns has recovered from a knee injury and starts at openside flanker while Will Addison makes his first start on the left wing following an injury to Ben Cohen that also sees Paul Williams switch to the No.14 shirt. Sean Cox moves from flanker to second row with Chris Jones dropping to the bench.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Flanker Steffon Armitage is reportedly set to announce a move to Top 14 side Toulon - either way he will be determined to deliver a strong performance and keep the Exiles' play-off hopes alive.
London Irish - Team News: England international Alex Corbisiero makes his first start for the Exiles since returning from Six Nations duty. David Paice, who has scored two tries in two games, starts at hooker and Romanian international Paulica Ion replaces Faan Rautenbach. Bob Casey rejoins Nick Kennedy in the second row and Seilala Mapusua captains the side.
Key Battle: The battle of the boot will see Sale No.10 Charlie Hodgson and Irish playmaker Dan Bowden compete for territory, points and ultimately victory.
Trivia: The Reebok is the 30th different venue for Premiership rugby, and will be hosting its first game of union.
Stats: London Irish scrum-half Paul Hodgson has made more passes than any other player in this season's Premiership - 787.
This game is another example of the way the Club is moving forward it's an exciting venture, with our biggest ever crowd for a home game. We're in confident mood, looking forward to successive back-to-back wins." - Sale head coach Peter Anglesea talks up the Sharks.
"The whole squad is aware of the importance of Saturday's game with Sale Sharks. There are only five points separating us for from fourth place, so we go to the Reebok Stadium knowing what we have to do and intend to come away with the right result." - Exiles boss Toby Booth has his eyes on the play-offs.
Fantasy: Sale fly-half Charlie Hodgson has been in fine form with the boot all season and found the try-line last weekend, is he in your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game team?
Prediction: Sale to throw a spanner in the Irish works and dent their play-off hopes with a hard-fought victory.
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