Sale Sharks v Newcastle Falcons Preview

Sale and Newcastle meet in round one for the fourth time in the last six years, whilst the Sharks have not beaten the Tynesiders since a 14-9 victory at Kingston park on 7 September 2008.

The new Aviva Premiership Rugby season begins at Edgeley Park for the second successive year: Sale beat Leicester there 15-12 twelve months ago. The Sharks finished off last campaign with four successive defeats.

Newcastle Falcons only victory in round one of a new Premiership season since 2004 was 33-12 at home to Sale in 2007. The Falcons’ most recent away game was also at Edgeley Park, where they beat the Sharks 32-30 in round 21 last season.

Newcastle who have won on three of their last four visits to Stockport have handed a debut to fly half Jeremy Manning.

The former Munster player starts for the Falcons after shining in pre-season, with last year’s Golden Boot winner Jimmy Gopperth restricted to a place on the bench as he recovers from an ankle problem.

Scottish internationals Ally Hogg and Andy Henderson both make their first Aviva Premiership Rugby appearances for the club after summer moves from Edinburgh and Montauban respectively, whilst there are also competitive debuts for centre Luke Eves and prop Tim Ryan.

Lock forward James Hudson skippers Newcastle at the venue where they enjoyed a memorable 32-30 victory in the penultimate game of last season, with new head coach Alan Tait saying: “We’re expecting a very different Sale team from that night.

“They’ve got a new coach in Mike Brewer who I know from my Scotland days, and they’ve made a whole number of changes to their playing squad. Yes we had a good win down there towards the end of last season and also the season before, but that was then and it’s a fresh start for both teams now.

“Looking back it was a great game last year with so much resting on it, and I suppose that’s why people want to keep this relegation lark because that’s the sort of pressure and excitement it generates. To win that was a massive night for the club, but it’s a different pressure this time round with both sides wanting to start with a victory.”

Explaining the decision to go with a half back pairing of Jeremy Manning and Chris Pilgrim while Jimmy Gopperth and Micky Young sit on the bench, Tait revealed: “It’s more a case of not taking any unnecessary risks.

“We’ve gone with the guys who have been fit, training at full intensity and have been involved in all the rugby across the summer. Jimmy has only been coming back from the last three weeks after his ankle injury, while Micky hurt his groin at the Middlesex Sevens and has been working back to full fitness from that.

” Hall Charlton has been battling to get over a hamstring injury for the last six weeks too, so we have gone with the guys who are at their sharpest. If this was the last month of the season we might have pitched them in and asked them to battle through until they could have a rest, but there’s a long way to go yet and we’ve got to manage everyone correctly.

“Jimmy and Micky were naturally disappointed, but they both understand the thought processes. Last season we relied too heavily on Jimmy, and played him when he was tired and carrying injuries. We won’t make the same mistake again. We’ve got options, so we’ll use them, and I’m very excited about Chris and Jeremy, they have gone very well and looked great over the pre-season.

“Chris Pilgrim has worked so hard on his game over the summer, he went away to America in May to do some sprint training with a coach over there and he’s always looking for extra tips. He’s worked hard on his pass service and he’s been sharp. He backed himself last year to come here on trial and win a deal. That’s what he’s done, and he’s getting better and better all the time.”

With the long-awaited start to the new Aviva Premiership Rugby season finally coming round, Tait said: “The boys are absol

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