1) Can Sale avoid the "banana slip" of two seasons ago?
The parallels are eerily similar; a winless start to the season for Sale, a home match against a London Welsh side widely expected by many, if not all, to be rock bottom of that season's Aviva Premiership table and me standing in the South Stand watching on.. but Sale will be hoping for a much improved result than the last time the Sharks and Welsh met at the AJ Bell stadium, a bitterly dispiriting 29-19 triumph for the Oxfordshire-based team. That game was the worst I have ever seen Sale play in my then six-years of attending Sharks games and it is a performance I have not seen them slip to in the intervening years since.
By all accounts, this is a game Sale should win, even without the services of perhaps 1/3 of the first choice XV. Sale are quite simply all around the better team with greater depth, more experience at the Premiership level better attacking options and stronger team chemistry. Welsh have talent yes, experience and vigour in their ranks as well but their lack of cohesiveness and team chemistry - a byproudct of signing 26(!) new players this summer after being promoted - has been nakedly evident in their first two games of the season, two losses in which they conceded over 50 points in both games. As both Bath and Exeter have shown Sale; limiting unforced errors and playing simple but effective rugby; in the scrum, lineout, with ball-in-hand etc. is the key for undoing a Welsh team that will ultimately struggle to compete as the team still gels. But for me at least, the memory of that humiliating shock defeat two years ago still haunts me, and should serve as a perfect reminder for Sale that they cannot afford to rest on their laurels on Saturday even against a Welsh team that few believe will survive being back in English rugby's top-flight. Sale simply cannot afford to gift this game to Welsh, the same way it could be said they did to Bath and Gloucester.
2) Can Sale go a full 80 minutes without losing anyone else to injury?
Last season Sale were incredibly lucky with injuries, or lack thereof. But as what usually happens with sporting karma and good-will, Sale have endured a very difficult, injury-hit start to the 2014-15 season losing Tommy Taylor, Sam Tuitupou and Johnny Leota before the season even began, Marc Jones (kindof), Dan Braid and Mark Cueto against Bath and then Nathan Hines (out for three months) and Marc Jones (again) against Gloucester last week. Whilst Tuitupou, Leota and Braid could potentially feature on Saturday (according to the MEN's ever reliable Neil Leigh), a bigger concern for Steve Diamond will be ensuring that everybody comes through the game unscathed. With Saracens and Northampton Saints away looming on the horizon, the very last thing Sale need is to lose any more first-team regulars.
3) What will the attendance be on Saturday?
I promise this will be the last time I bring up attendance on "Three Things" lest I go the way of a broken record, but a quick look for tickets against London Welsh on Sale's official website does not paint a very encouraging picture:
Enough, unfortunately, said.