Sale Sharks play what is arguably their biggest game of the season so far on Sunday as they host the Exeter Chiefs in the Heineken Champions Cup.
The Sharks go into the game off the back of a 20-13 defeat to Worcester in the Gallagher Premiership last weekend but will be looking to right those wrongs and make it two wins from their opening three matches in Europe.
If successful, then the Salford based club will pick up back-to-back victories in Europe’s premier rugby competition for the first time since December 2009.
Sale haven’t picked up back-to-back victories since their four successive wins in the Premiership Rugby Cup at the start of the season.
Their Director of Rugby, Steve Diamond, knows that Sunday’s game won’t be a walk in the park and are aware of the threats that Exeter can pose.
“Exeter are a dominant side – they don’t come with many whistles but are hard working,” said Diamond.
“They are capable of getting good field position for a score and can keep the ball for long periods of time so we have to be ready to adapt to that.
“They’re top of the group. We’ve got to keep our tails up and win but the more daunting challenge is to go to Sandy Park next week – however, our main focus is this weekend,” he added.
Sale will be without lock Jean-Luc Du Preez who is currently serving a three week ban following his sending off at Sixways last weekend for a shoulder-led challenge on Graham Kitchener.
The South African accepted the ban and will miss both Champions Cup matches against Exeter and the Premiership meeting with Northampton in two weeks’ time.
Du Preez will be available for selection ahead of the visit to Bath on 28 December.
Starting XV to face Exeter Chiefs: (1-8) Coenie Oosthuizen, Akker van der Merwe, Willgriff John, Bryn Evans, James Phillips, Tom Curry, Ben Curry, Jono Ross (c) (9-15) Faf De Klerk, Rob Du Preez, Marland Yarde, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Sam James, Chris Ashton, Simon Hammersley
Replacements: Curtis Langdon, Ross Harrison, Jake Cooper-Woolley, Matthew Postlethwaite, Cameron Neild, Will Cliff, Luke James, Denny Solomona
Image credit: Sale Sharks