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Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter writes

Posted Friday, December 21st 2018

Preview: Sale Sharks vs Bristol Bears

Bristol Bears travel to Manchester to take on Sale Sharks in the penultimate Gallagher Premiership fixture of 2018.

The two sides head into Saturday's game off the back of a win and a defeat at the hands of Top 14 opposition in the two-week European Challenge Cup block, with Pat Lam's side taking on La Rochelle and Sale facing Bordeaux. 

Here's everything you need to know about Saturday's clash.


Team news

Bristol Bears: 15. Charles Piutau; 14. Luke Morahan, 13. Will Hurrell, 12. Siale Piutau (cc), 11. Alapati Leiua; 10. Ian Madigan, 9. Harry Randall; 1. Yann Thomas, 2. Harry Thacker, 3. John Afoa, 4. Chris Vui, 5. Aly Muldowney, 6. Steve Luatua (cc), 7. George Smith, 8. Jack Lam. 
Replacements: 16. Tom Lindsay, 17. Jake Woolmore, 18. Lewis Thiede, 19. Joe Joyce, 20. Dan Thomas, 21. Andy Uren, 22. Callum Sheedy, 23. Piers O'Conor.

Sale Sharks: 15. Chris Ashton; 14. Denny Solomona, 13. Sam James, 12. James O’Connor, 11. Byron McGuigan; 10. Rob du Preez, 9. Faf de Klerk; 1. Ross Harrison, 2. Rob Webber, 3. WillGriff John, 4. Josh Beaumont, 5. James Phillips, 6. Jono Ross (c), 7. Tom Curry, 8. Jean-Luc du Preez.

Replacements: 16. Curtis Langdon, 17. Tom Bristow, 18. Joe Jones, 19. Bryn Evans, 20. Josh Strauss, 21. Will Cliff, 22. Luke James, 23. Ben Curry.


Last time out:

Sale Sharks 23-24 Bristol Rugby - Sun, 1st Jan 2017, AJ Bell Stadium

Bristol Rugby produced a second half fightback to make it back-to-back Aviva Premiership wins with a hard-fought 24-23 victory over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium on Sunday.

Trailing 23-10 midway through the second half - after Tom Varndell's record-equalling first half try - the visitors hit back with two further scores, from Rhodri Williams and Max Crumpton.

Jason Woodward's touchline conversion eventually proved the difference late on.


Head-to-head:

George Smith

George Smith has made an enormous impact at Bristol Bears since arriving in the summer.

Having initially signed a six-month deal, Smith extended his stay until the end of the Gallagher Premiership season during October.

The former Australia international, now 38, lines up against Sale’s young flanker, Ben Curry on Saturday, with the breakdown set to prove a pivotal factor in the clash at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Ben Curry

Ben Curry broke into the first team with twin brother Tom last season – and both made an impressive impact in senior rugby.

Ben made 17 appearances for the Sharks and would have made his senior England debut against the Barbarians in May, but for an injury in the week before the game.

That presented Tom with his chance – and he won the man-of-the match award.


Charles Piutau

Piutau missed almost three months of action after sustaining a shoulder injury just ten minutes into his club debut during the pre-season clash with Connacht at Ashton Gate.

But after a frustrating period on the side lines – and cameos against Gloucester and former club, Wasps in the Premiership Rugby Cup – Piutau sprung into action with a try on his Gallagher Pemiership debut against Exeter Chiefs.

Since his return to action, Piutau has made more metres than anyone else in the Bristol Bears squad.

Chris Ashton

England international Chris Ashton joined Sale Sharks from Toulon in the Summer of 2018 and was quickly recalled to the international setup by Eddie Jones.

The 39-cap back-three player scored early on his return to the fold, touching down just six minutes into England’s narrow defeat to New Zealand at Twickenham.

The former Saracens, Northampton Saints and Wigan Warriors star is comfortable at wing and full-back and his head-to-head clash with Charles Piutau is a mouth-watering prospect.

 


Word from the camps:

Pat Lam

"I think the best thing about the performances of the guys in the European rugby is that it just creates more and more competition and I’ve said right from day one – competition is crucial for this team to be successful.

"It’s a big challenge to go up there but it’s one we’re looking forward to. The difficulty this week is which is the best group to go out for this game, but that’s exactly what I want.

"Our main thing is the work we do at training to continue putting our heads down and getting the hard work done and then hopefully the result will take care of itself."

Will Cliff

"They are a good side and they are going well, aren’t they? It’s definitely one where you want to get one over on your old team.

"So, I’m looking forward to it and it’s a big game for us.

"The way they play, they like to throw the ball around, and we’re the same. Our attack, when it’s on point, can cut open any team. I’m expecting a free-flowing game."


Form guide:

Sale Sharks have lost just once in the last four rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby: 25-31 at table topping Saracens in round seven.

The Sharks only defeat at AJ Bell Stadium in Premiership Rugby this season was to Wasps in round four.

Bristol Bears four game losing streak in Gallagher Premiership Rugby ended with their 41-10 defeat of Leicester at Ashton Gate in round nine.

Bristol have won two of their last three away games in all competitions but have not triumphed on the road in Premiership Rugby since they last visited Sale on New Year’s Day 2017.

Their 24-23 victory at AJ Bell Stadium that day was their only previous visit to the venue and ended a five-game losing streak to the Sharks in Premiership Rugby.

Bristol Bears: WLW
Sale Sharks: DWL


Weather forecast

Met Office says: 

A fine day although skies will cloud over at times, and that will bring the risk of showers, especially to the hills. Maximum temperature 10 °C.


How to buy tickets:

Tickets for Saturday's clash at the AJ Bell Stadium are available to purchase online now by clicking here.


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