Friday night rugby returns (even if the crowds from Edgeley Park probably won't) to the North-West with Sale's first home game of the 2015-16 season, a suddenly tasty matchup with Worcester following the Warriors' shock 13-12 victory over Northampton Saints last week and Sale's capitulation at the Allianz against Saracens.
Sale starting XV: 15.Mike Haley, 14. Tom Arscott, 13. Johnny Leota, 12. Sam Tuitupou, 11. Will Addison, 10. Danny Cipriani, 9. Chris Cusiter, 1. Ross Harrison, 2.Tommy Taylor, 3. Vadim Cobilas, 4. Bryn Evans, 5. Jonathan Mills, 6. Dan Braid (capt), 7. David Seymour, 8. Josh Beaumont
Replacements: 16. Neil Briggs, 17. James Flynn, 18. Brian Mujati, 19. Andrei Ostrikov, 20. TJ Ioane, 21. Peter Stringer, 22. Nick Macleod, 23. Sam James
Here are three things to watch out for as Sale look to get their first win and points on the board and bounce back from that horrendous trip to North London:
TJ Ioane Returns
The mercurial Samoan flanker, who far and away was Sale's most impressive representative in this year's Rugby World Cup, makes a welcome return to the Sale matchday 23, albeit on the bench for Friday's game. Sale desperately lacked intensity - both at the breakdown and with their ball-carriers last Saturday, a problem Ioane's inclusion should immediately rectify. The potential impact the Samoan could make off the bench in relief of Dan Braid after say, 55 minutes is tantalizing.
As do the Bosh Brothers
Although they both come under immense criticism for their extremely similar styles of play from the Sale faithful, it is easier to forget the relative riches Sale enjoy in their midfield with both Johnny Leota and Sam Tuitupou. The return of the hard-hitting and abrasive pairing should help solidify Sale's midfield defence and also add even more physicality in what should be an autumnal arm-wrestling contest of a rugby game between two hard-nosed sides.
The inclusion of Sam James on the bench also gives Sale a more dynamic offensive option to utilise if the game begins to open up. Its a nice trio of skill-sets to have available to employ.
Vadim Cobilas' 100th Game
Unbeknownst to myself until the official press release came out earlier on Thursday; Vadim Cobilas will make his 100th appearance in a Sale shirt with his expected start on Friday. Considering Cobilas' unorthodox background, joining the Premiership and Sale directly from VVA-Podmoskovye Monino in Russia, the sheer fact that the Moldovan has made it to a centenary of appearances for the Premiership club is an unbelievable appearance, and is one the club cult favourite should be immensely proud of having established himself as one of the very best and most consistent players at the club along the way. And to think we can have Brian Mujati coming off the bench after an hour. Is this what it feels like to support a big club?
Prediction: Sale Sharks 27 - 19 Worcester Warriors
Tapping into that spring of perhaps misguided preseason optimism that saw me egg-faced at Saracens last week; I anticipate a significant rebound from the Sharks on Friday night. Yes Sale were piss-poor last weekend but to expect a similar performance two weeks in a row suggests an innate lack of knowledge of how Sale's form fluctuates every season, and although Worcester somehow emerged victorious over the mighty Saints last Friday, it was by the very finest of margins and Northampton were woeful. Will Worcester be a tougher test than London Welsh last season? Of course, but Sale on a Friday night, heading towards winter, and at home, are a bloody tough team to beat regardless of who is travelling to the AJ Bell. A much more balanced pack and the returns of a few key players should push Sale to a victory, although I doubt it will be very comfortable.