Sale look to bounce back after a disheartening 79th minute loss last week against Leicester Tigers with a trip to Wasps's new home The Richoh Arena on Sunday. Here's three things to watch for:
If you haven't seen the Sale team announced earlier today its worth taking a look at:
Haley, Addison, Leota, Tuitupou, Arscott, Ford, Cliff, Easter, Lund, Seymour, Ostrikov, Hines, Cobilas, Mamukashvili, Di Marchi.
Bench: Harrison, Lewis-Roberts, Jones, Mills, Beaumont, Cuister, Cipriani, Cueto
That's an interesting selection and a big gamble from Dimes, time to make sense of it.
The names in bold are those who have been brought in to replace regular first-team players. As you can see, Steve Diamond has rotated this side massively. Danny Cipriani, Chris Cusiter, Josh Beaumont, Eifon Lewis-Roberts and Marc Jones - all key components of the orthodox Sale first team - are starting on the bench. My thoughts are that last week's result against Leicester has lead to a marked change in Diamond's approach to the Wasps fixture and Diamond is seeking a much more potent and influential bench to change the game in Sale's favour in the second half. However its a surprising departure from Diamond's coaching ethos considering the lack of trust Diamond has placed in his reserves and rotation players this season - exemplified by his decision to only use four of his eight bench players against Tigers last Saturday. Obviously that won't be the case on Sunday and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see six or seven substitutions take place simultaneously at the start of the second half, it now becomes a case of whether Sale are still in the game at that juncture. Big games are needed from the likes of Alberto Di Marchi, Mark Easter and Will Cliff.
Joe Ford gets the start.
Perhaps the biggest risk taken by Diamond with his team selection is having Joe Ford start at Fly-Half in place of Danny Cipriani. Cipriani has been in fantastic form this season for Sale whilst Ford has been relatively average in the spot-starts and cameo appearances he has made sporadically throughout the season. Against a top-six challenging team with a backline as dangerous as Wasps', Ford is going to have put together a complete performance if Sale are to have any chance of winning. That means nailing his penalties and placekicks, combining well with Sale's (full strength) backline, moving the chains territorially and holding up well defensively.
With Cipriani's future still up in the air, this is a big opportunity for Ford to state his case for more regular appearances even if Cipriani stays (since his re-signing depends on being selected for England which would necessitate Ford being picked at 10 in Cipriani's absence).
Tom Arscott Returns
Lost a tad in the discussion around Diamond's rotation is that Tom Arscott is fit and starting again. Arscott had been, up until his injury against Harlequins in November, one of Sale's most impressive and consistent performers having been shifted from fullback to left wing with the arrival of Luke McLean and his return is certainly a welcome one.
Having the quicker and more positionally-sound Arscott in place of the floundering Mark Cueto is a big boost for Sale especially paired with a rejuvenated Will Addison on the other wing and the exceptional Mike Haley at 15 giving Sale an incredibly dangerous counter-attacking back three to match Wasps'.
Prediction: Not even going to try and predict this one. Sale's selection make work perfectly and the bench carries Sale to a crucial away win over our now local rivals or Wasps may have a 30-point lead by the time the benches are ready to clear.