Sale Sharks have named a strong side to take on Northampton Saints at the AJ Bell Stadium in the opening fixture of the 2020/221 Gallagher Premiership. Steve Diamond’s team features a number of foreigners, including 9 South Africans.
It’s the first outing for both teams since they were forced to forfeit their final 2019/20 fixtures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the forwards, Russian international Valery Morozov joins Springbok’s Akker van der Merwe and Coenie Oosthuizen in an experienced front row for the first game of the season.
An all-South African second row of Jean-Luc du Preez and Cobus Wiese will provide impressive power options behind them as the Sharks look to start the season with intent. Club Captain Jono Ross, Ben Curry and Daniel du Preez complete a dynamic Sale pack for the round 1 fixture.
The Sharks back division features World Cup winning scrum half Faf de Klerk taking centre stage alongside USA international AJ MacGinty. The experienced half-back pairing have the services of powerful inside centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg and the eclectic skills of Sam James outside them.
Sale have their sizeable South African contingent available following the Springboks’ Rugby Championship (now Tri-Nations) withdrawal due to fears over player welfare and disruption amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are very lucky that South Africa didn’t play, because we would have lost a shed-load of players if that were the case,” said Steve Diamond.
“When the news came through, it was disappointing for them, but not so for me. It’s a boost for us. We would have gone the first three league games and probably a European game without them.”
After an impressive performance in the reverse of this fixture at the end of last season, Simon Hammersley takes his place on the wing alongside Denny Solomona, with the in-form Luke James securing the 15 shirt for Friday’s match.
Sale Sharks Starting XV:
15. Luke James, 14. Denny Solomona, 13. Sam James, 12. Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11. Simon Hammersley, 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Faf De Klerk; 1. Valerey Morozov, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Jono Ross (Capt.) 7. Ben Curry, 8. Daniel du Preez
16. Curtis Langdon, 17. Bevan Rodd, 18. Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19. James Phillips, 20. Matt Postlethwaite, 21. Will Cliff, 22. Rob du Preez, 23. Marland Yarde
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