Sale begin their LV Cup campaign at the AJ Bell stadium tomorrow afternoon, looking to make it two-out-of-two against Wasps whom they beat 25-14 less than four weeks ago.
Here's three things to look out for:
Ross Harrison as a tighthead
The MEN's Neil Leigh elucidated this better than I can but the long and short of it is this: with no options on the market, Ross Harrison looks set to be the solution for Sale's lack of depth at tighthead with a conversion to the position imminent. In limited game-time at the number 3 position, Harrison has looked steady and a lot more proficient than either Eifon Lewis-Roberts or Alberto Di Marchi. Also working in Harrison's favour is that internationally, England's weakest position is tighthead by a country mile and if Harrison has legitimate EPS aspirations a conversion may serve in his best interests.
Vilhami Fihaki finally gets a starting berth
As I have spent seemingly the entire season so far advocating, Tongan international Vilhami Fihaki finally gets a chance to start for Sale at No.8. What will be most interesting is to see how his play differs from Mark Easter, considering Easter's defensive security and Fihaki's more dynamic attacking ability. A good performance from Fihaki at the base of the scrum should afford him greater opportunities in the squad later in the season.
How seriously are Sale taking the LV this season?
From the announced lineup for tomorrow's game, it would appear Sale are indeed taking the competition seriously with a good mix of both veteran experience and youthfulness in the team whilst allowing returning first-team players such as Luke McLean and Dan Braid to gain match fitness for Premiership fixtures next month. With a less-than-satisfacotry start to the domestic season and European elimination at the first hurdle looking likely, are Sale right to prioritise the LV? Personally I think so. A good indicator of Sale's ambitions will be in the decisions Steve Diamond makes throughout the game. Will half the first team go off after 60 minutes scoreline be damned or will it be played in the same manner as a league or european game? Here's hoping the later.
Sale team: McLean, MacKenzie, Forsyth, Tuitupou, Ingall, Ford, Cliff, Di Marchi, Jones, Harrison, Ostrikov, Beaumont, Easter, Braid, Fihaki.
Prediction: Sale Sharks 24 - Wasps 16