Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers meet in Gallagher Premiership semi-final


Sale Sharks welcome defending champions, Leicester Tigers to the AJ Bell Stadium, as the Manchester based side look to make their first final appearance since 2006.

Sunday’s 3pm kick-off see’s 2nd place Sale take on Richard Wigglesworth’s 3rd place Tigers with a final against either Saracens or Northampton Saints on the line.

The AJ Bell Stadium will be sold out when Leicester come to town as the likes of Joe Carpenter and Ben Curry look to emulate the stars of 2006; Jason Robinson and now Tigers coach, Wigglesworth.

Sale finished the season strongly with three wins in a row over Bristol Bears, Gloucester and Newcastle Falcons to guarantee Sunday’s home semi-final.

Leicester also go into this massive clash in good form with six wins in their last seven, only narrowly losing last time out against Harlequins.

Leicester visited the AJ Bell back in December and were thumped 40-5, but have improved vastly since then making this semi-final more intriguing.

One interesting factor going into the tie is the return of George Ford.

Ford spent 9 years at Leicester over two spells, but moved to Sale this summer to be closer to home.

The England International will be a key man on Sunday as he faces off against his Tigers’ replacement, Handre Pollard.

Pollard and Ford had slow starts to their careers at their new clubs due to injuries, but have come to the fore in recent weeks and will be crucial to their teams game plans on Sunday.

Leicester beat midland rivals, Northampton Saints at the semi-final stage last season, before being crowned champions at Twickenham the week later.

The major talking point ahead of team selection for this semi-final was whether the Premiership’s top ever try scorer, Chris Ashton, would be available for selection after his red card in round 24 against Harlequins.

After an independent disciplinary panel reduced his red card down to a yellow card, the winger was eligible to be selected by Wigglesworth.

But the day after the result of the disciplinary meeting, Ashton was left out of the matchday 23.

England Internationals Anthony Watson, Freddie Steward and George Martin return to the Leicester starting 15 after missing the last game of the regular season.

Matt Scott comes into the 15, dropping Guy Porter to a spot on the bench.

Seven players who started last years final at Twickenham will line-up for the Tigers this weekend.

This includes their brilliant back-row of Hanro Liebenberg, Tommy Reffell and Jasper Wiese.

Sale make five changes to their starting 15 from last week’s demolition of Newcastle Falcons.

Director of Rugby, Alex Sanderson has decided to change his whole front row with Simon McIntyre, Akker van der Merwe and Nick Schonert coming in for Bevan Rodd, Ewan Ashman and Coenie Oosthuizen.

Their other change in the pack sees England International, Tom Curry return to the back row to partner his brother Ben.

The final change is at scrum-half with Raffi Quirke dropping to the bench for breakthrough star, Gus Warr.

Sale’s bench is littered with international quality, which Sanderson will be hoping will make an impact later in the game.


Sale Sharks: 15. Joe Carpenter, 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Rob du Preez, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Arron Reed, 10. George Ford, 9. Gus Warr; 1. Simon McIntyre, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Jean-Luc du Preez, 5. Jonny Hill, 6. Tom Curry, 7. Ben Curry (C), 8. Jono Ross.

Replacements: 16. Ewan Ashman, 17. Bevan Rodd, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Josh Beaumont, 20. Daniel du Preez, 21. Raffi Quirke, 22. Sam James, 23. Tom O’Flaherty

Leicester Tigers: 15. Freddie Steward, 14. Anthony Watson, 13. Matt Scott, 12. Dan Kelly, 11. Harry Potter, 10. Handre Pollard, 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Tom West, 2. Julian Montoya, 3. Dan Cole, 4. George Martin, 5. Cameron Henderson, 6. Hanro Liebenberg, 7. Tommy Reffell, 8. Jasper Wiese

Replacements: 16. Charlie Clare 17. James Cronin 18. Joe Heyes 19. Harry Wells 20. Olly Cracknell 21. Jack Van Poortvliet 22. Jimmy Gopperth 23. Guy Porter

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