Play-off chasing Sale Sharks and Gloucester meet at the AJ Bell Stadium in Round 20 of the Gallagher Premiership


Sale Sharks will be aiming to get their play-off hopes back on track when they welcome fellow top four chasers Gloucester to the AJ Bell Stadium.

Alex Sanderson’s side had their six match unbeaten run ended by Exeter Chiefs last weekend, as they came from 19 points behind to lose 19-12 at Sandy Park.

After a disappointing start to the campaign, which saw Sharks fall well below their expected table whereabouts, the north west side have since recovered in the New Year to become serious top four contenders.

Sale have won five of their eight Premiership matches in 2022 – two more than they achieved in their first nine outings – in which they recorded back-to-back victories against reigning champions Harlequins and league leaders Leicester Tigers.

Despite injuries and international absentees, Academy graduates Tom Roebuck and Arron Reed have stepped up to the plate in recent months. The wingers, who both start tomorrow afternoon, have each scored six tries in their last eight appearances which has picked up vital points.

Gloucester travel to the AJ Bell off the back of a late 35-30 win against Northampton Saints at Kingsholm last weekend. Having trailed 27-14 on the hour, Louis Rees-Zammit’s wonder score and a penalty try gave the Cherry and Whites a one point lead heading into the final 10 minutes.

Despite Dan Biggar’s penalty extending Northampton’s lead, George Skivington’s side hit back seven minutes before the final whistle through Alex Craig to earn a crucial five points and avoid a third successive defeat.

The South West outfit have the third best away record in the Premiership behind Leicester and Exeter. Even though Gloucester have lost their last two matches on the road – against Tigers and Chiefs – the Cherry and Whites will be hoping to replicate recent victories against Saracens and Newcastle Falcons to continue their top four push.

However, they will have to perform without four players who have been called up to international duty. Chris Harris and Adam Hastings have been named in Scotland’s 23-man squad, whilst Rees-Zammit has been recalled to the Wales bench for their Six Nations fixture against table toppers France in Cardiff tonight.

Giorgi Kveseladze has been named in Georgia’s starting line-up for their Rugby Championship match against Romania. It was announced on Thursday that Georgia have qualified for the 2023 World Cup, after the Rugby World Cup Board decided all Russia’s remaining qualifiers would be abandoned.

Sanderson has named a strong side to face the Cherry and Whites, which includes the return of Ben Curry and Faf de Klerk to the starting line-up. The duo replace Cobus Wiese and Raffi Quirke who are amongst the substitutes.

Sale have provided an injury update on a number of absentees. Akker van der Merwe [ankle], Josh Beaumont [knee]and Simon Hammersley are all expected to return within four weeks, whilst Cameron Neild, who was carried off in the defeat to Chiefs, is likely to only miss this week due to concussion.

Gloucester have made two changes to the side that beat Saints last time out. George Barton starts at fly-half in the absence of Hastings, whilst Lewis Ludlow returns from England duty to captain the team in place of Jack Clement at flanker.

In recent meetings between the two, Sale edge the upper hand having won six of the last 10 matches. Despite Sharks winning this contest 25-22 at the AJ Bell last season – following a late AJ MacGinty penalty – Gloucester have won twice on their last four visits.

The October fixture at Kingsholm unravelled into a try-fest as Gloucester held on to a 33-32 victory despite a late Sale fightback.

Nine tries were scored between the two, and despite Gloucester leading 33-22 with a minute to go, two quick-fire tries earnt Sale a bonus point – although, Tom Curtis’ missed conversion could have snatched maximum points.

With Sale and Gloucester are separated by five points, the hosts could climb above their visitors if they were to achieve maximum points and keep the Cherry and Whites pointless.

A Gloucester win and defeats for Exeter and London Irish would see Glaws conclude the round in the play-off places, as Skivington’s side sit two points behind Chiefs who are fourth.

However, getting a win away at Sale is something only Exeter have achieved in the last 17 matches. Sharks have won 15 of those games, and are unbeaten in their eight on home soil.

Match referee: Christophe Ridley.

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