Sale Sharks host La Rochelle in the Heineken Champions Cup at the AJ Bell Stadium on Sunday (1.00pm). Given that both sides lost their opening game last weekend, it is a must-win tie for both outfits.
Sale may be impressing in the Gallagher Premiership, currently perching in third-place, but in order to maintain their hopes of reaching the top spot in Pool 2, they must build on the bonus point from the defeat to Glasgow Warriors last Saturday.
Director of Rugby Steve Diamond will have World Cup winner Faf de Klerk and finalist Tom Curry available, having told Salford Now that “they will start this weekend, definitely.”
Though Curry’s fellow England finalist and new signing Mark Wilson won’t be back in action as quickly, as he is set for small surgery which should sideline him for up to 10 weeks.
Diamond was clear on the importance of the upcoming game as he said: “If we have got any ambition of challenging the group, we’ve got to win at the weekend. If we can get a win and Glasgow lose to Exeter, then there’s an opportunity for us to challenge the group.
“We know Exeter are a good side and we face them in the next two games so if we win at the weekend it keeps the group alive if we don’t, then we concentrate on the league.”
On the preparations for this tie following on from the Glasgow game, Curry said: “Our set-piece, especially line-out, scrum was good, line-out was poor and we do realise that.
“It’s a massive part of what Sale is as an identity as a culture is having a strong set-piece and especially now at a high-standard set piece is almost everything.”
La Rochelle have won two out of the last three away games against Premiership opposition in European competition and Diamond is well aware of the threat they pose.
“They’re a big physical side, they run the ball a lot, the fly-halfs chip and tricky little players all the time so we’ve got to make sure that we’re aware of those.
“But just play our own game, concentrate on what we do – Faf will bring a bit more speed and tempo to the game – and if we defend well and get our set-piece right, we should win.”