Coming off the back of a monumental victory over Saracens at the AJ Bell last weekend, Sale travel to Welford Road on Saturday afternoon looking to continue their push for a top-four place against fellow play-off hopefuls Leicester Tigers. Here's three things to watch out for:
Cusiter and MacLeod
With Danny Cipriani back with England ahead of their clash against Ireland on Sunday, Sale will turn once again to Nick MacLeod to lead the team from the fly-half spot. MacLeod impressed mightily against London Welsh (although there are few players who wouldn't) as he linked up extremely well with Chris Cusiter and their fellow backs as Sale ran in eight tries a fortnight ago. Cusiter was not named in Scotland's 23 to play Italy and has therefore been released back to Sale to play this weekend and his and MacLeod's linkup play will be crucial against a much sterner test in Leicester Tigers.
I said last week that if Sale were able to maintain parity at the scrum with Saracens they would have the chance to win. Indeed they did just that and more, spending big portions of the game with their forward pack in the ascendancy en route to a magnificent victory. It will be the exact same situation against Tigers on Saturday, whose pack showed their might last week decimating London Irish in a war of attrition at the Madjeski. Even without the Youngs brothers, Tom Croft and Dan Cole, Leicester's set-piece is what their gameplan is built around and Sale will need to go toe-to-toe with the Tigers' forwards if they have any chance of bringing their backs into the game and winning.
No Will Addison
Towards the end of last week's Saracens game, Will Addison fell awkwardly on his right knee and was brought off (albeit under his own power) immediately. This week, his is the most conspicuous absence from a near full-strength Sale first team and considering the Cumbrian's injury history, one fears another long-term injury lay-off is never far away from one of Sale's most impressive backs this season. However in his steed Tom Arscott is back into the Sale first team and Tom Brady makes a welcome return to the starting 23 following his Super Bowl victory on the bench as he looks to redeem his first team place. Brady has been working hard on fixing the issues that lead to his dropping earlier this season by Steve Diamond and the impact he makes off the bench is something to keep an eye on.
Prediction: Leicester Tigers 21 - 17 Sale Sharks
Sale have struggled extensively at Welford Road in recent years and collapsed spectacularly there earlier this season in the LV Cup, 29-13. Leicester are missing a number of key players through injury or international duty, but such is their strength in depth, they are still able to put out a formidable looking side. If Sale can keep the set-piece equal and numb its importance in the game, they will once again have a chance to snatch a famous victory. Its going to be close but Leicester's home advantage plus the absence of Sale's Danny Cipriani and Will Addison means I predict Tigers win a close one.
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