London Irish v Sale Sharks Premiership Preview

London Irish host Sale Sharks at the Madejski Stadium

London Irish have named a team with three changes for this Saturday’s Aviva Premiership encounter with Sale Sharks at the Madejski Stadium

England capped hooker David Paice gets the nod ahead of Tom Cruse in the front-row, while Jebb Sinclair replaces Elliott Stooke who has returned to Gloucester following a loan spell with the Club.

The Exiles have made just one change in the backline with Tom Fowlie coming in for Topsy Ojo on the wing as Tom Coventry’s side eye successive victories on home soil following the St Patrick’s Day Game triumph over Gloucester.

Last week’s narrow 12-6 defeat at Worcester Warriors also garnered a losing bonus point for the Exiles, cutting the gap on Newcastle Falcons to just four points at the foot of the table.

Assistant Coach Richard Whiffin is anticipating a stern test from a Sale outfit, harbouring a top six European Champions Cup berth come May.

“It is going to be a huge game for us at the Madejski, and we have been in good form there of late,” said Whiffin.

“We have won four out of our last five home games, and this weekend is an opportunity for us to get more points on the board going into the Newcastle game in a fortnight’s time,” added Whiffin.

Irish’s last four Premiership games are being billed as ‘cup finals’ by Head Coach Tom Coventry, with Whiffin echoing those sentiments, adding: “Every game is a cup final and we must approach every game with the right mentality.

“We just need to take our chances which was evident during last week’s game at Worcester, a match that was there for the taking. We created enough to win the game, but we still had to fight back from being nine points down, so to come away with something was better than nothing.

“We started last weekend five league points down and ended it four points down so ultimately we were positive in that degree – you’ve got to look at the positive side of things.”

A half-back combination of Ireland legend Peter Stringer and Wasps-bound Danny Cipriani are set to take to the field this Saturday. Nullifying their threat will be high on the Exiles’ agenda, and Whiffin admits they are a tantalising prospect.

He said: “We know that they are the heartbeat of their team – Cipriani has played well all year and he attacks the line well, and has an outstanding passing and kicking game.

“Stringer is an old head and knows how to martial the troops and get his forward pack moving well. We know that they have lynchpins in their side and anything we can do to disrupt that will aid us.”

London Irish’s only victory in their last seven Aviva Premiership Rugby clashes was 23-18 at home to Gloucester in round 17.

The Exiles have lost just twice at Madejski Stadium since November: to Grenoble in the European Challenge Cup in January and to Exeter in Premiership Rugby the following month.

Sale Sharks last four games have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst their only away victory in Aviva Premiership rugby since February 2015 came on a trip to Leicester in round 11.

The last five encounters between the two clubs have gone in favour of the home side whilst Sale have not been victorious in Reading since October 2006.

Sale Sharks Boss Steve Diamond has opted to make two changes to the side which beat Leicester last weekend, with Brian Mujati & Andrei Ostrikov coming into the starting XV.

They replace Vadim Cobilas and Jonathan Mills, who are both on the bench.

Tommy Taylor will be making his 100th appearance for the Sharks, since joining the club back in 2011. Captain David Seymour will be making his 200th appearance in the Premiership.

Ahead of the game, Diamond said: “The win over Leicester Tigers means nothing if we can’t get a win at Irish this weekend, I’ve been telling the players that this morning. We’ve got to go down there and play as well as we did last Sunday. We’ve got to understand the animal we’re playing against. They’re desperate, they’ll be fighting tooth & nail to remain in the league.”

“Our preparation is good. It’s all about how you deal with the opposition on the day, if we perform good, we’ll win on the day.”

The Bookies have given London Irish a 3 point start for this Match – with an offer of up to £200 in Bonus bets.

Match : London Irish v Sale Sharks
Date : Saturday 2 April
Venue : Madejski Stadium,
Kick Off : 3pm
Live on: N.A
Match Officials
Referee : Craig Maxwell-Keys (16th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Roger Baileff & Roy Maybank.
TMO: Sean Davey

Teams

London Irish

15 Sean Maitland, 14 Tom Fowlie, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Andrew Fenby, 10 Greig Tonks, 9 Scott Steele, 1 Tom Court, 2 David Paice, 3 Halani Aulika, 4 Jebb Sinclair, 5 Matt Symons, 6 Luke Narraway (c), 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Ofisa Treviranus

Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Tom Smallbone, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Jerry Sexton, 20 Rob McCusker, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Theo Brophy Clews, 23 Fergus Mulchrone

Sale Sharks

15. Mike Haley, 14. Will Addison, 13. Sam James, 12. Sam Tuitupou, 11. Nev Edwards, 10. Danny Cipriani, 9. Peter Stringer, 1. Eifion Lewis Roberts, 2. Tommy Taylor, 3. Brian Mujati, 4. Bryn Evans, 5. Andrei Ostrikov, 6. Cameron Neild, 7. David Seymour (c), 8. Mark Easter

Replacements: 16. Neil Briggs, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Vadim Cobilas, 19. Jonathan Mills, 20. Magnus Lund, 21. TJ Ioane, 22. Joe Ford, 23. Tom Brady.

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