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Hines: We must take it game by game

Nathan Hines has little interest in any Aviva Premiership points target as Sale Sharks continue their quest to secure European Champions Cup qualification.

Sale are currently seventh in the Premiership table - one place off sealing a guaranteed Champions Cup place next term - with five games left.

Sharks' final phase of the domestic campaign begins against visitors Gloucester on Sunday, while further appointments await with London Irish, Harlequins, Newcastle and Exeter.

And while Sale realistically cannot afford any slip-ups during the season's closing stages, Sharks' former Scotland lock Hines is not looking beyond tackling Gloucester.

"I don't know what will get us into the top six," he said. "All I know is we want to win every game.

"If we are thinking about how many games we need to win, that will be our undoing.

"We are just thinking about Gloucester, win that one, chalk that one up and then move on to the next. That is the best and most efficient way to look at it, really.

"I know it's a cliche to say one game at a time, but if you start spreading your focus around too many things, you will come unstuck.

"It's about making sure not to worry if we win and someone else loses. It's more about worrying about our own performance as a team and as individuals. It's about getting our own stuff right."

England international Danny Cipriani is back in Sale's number 10 shirt on Sunday, while on-loan centre Brendan Macken makes his first start for Gloucester, featuring alongside England's Billy Twelvetrees in midfield.

Young Gloucester prospects Billy Burns and Callum Braley feature at full-back and scrum-half, respectively, and prop Nick Wood has recovered from injury to start for the first time since early January.

Gloucester are six points behind Sale, so defeat at the AJ Bell Stadium would effectively end any hope of finishing in the Premiership's top half.

"From Sunday onwards, we will need to build on the performances that we put in over the past few weeks," Gloucester rugby director David Humphreys said.

"It is about making sure that the small margins that can determine games go in our favour.

"We know it is an important few weeks. Going to Sale will be tough, we know they are very good at home.

"But we know that if we can perform at the level that we did against Northampton (Gloucester drew 33-33 with Saints earlier this month), then we can be competitive against anyone."

Confirmation of London Welsh finishing 12th and last in the Premiership is anticipated this weekend, with the Exiles not expected to trouble Kassam Stadium opponents and title-chasing Bath on Sunday.

Welsh show six changes for the game, which will be Rowland Phillips' first match as head coach since he replaced Justin Burnell. Players returning to action include full-back Seb Jewell, centre Tom May, hooker Koree Britton and lock Dean Schofield.

England backs Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph and George Ford are all rested for Bath's trip to Oxford, with Sam Burgess and Kyle Eastmond continuing their midfield partnership and Ollie Devoto lining up at fly-half.

In the pack, Kane Palma-Newport replaces injured prop Henry Thomas, and Leroy Houston returns at number eight, with an anticipated five-point maximum for Bath set to keep them in the play-off zone.

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