Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Lowly Sale prepare for Quins challenge

Steve Diamond thinks opponents Harlequins are the best team in the country

Sale are hoping to climb off the foot of the Aviva Premiership table when they host champions and league leaders Harlequins at Salford City Stadium.

Victory would lift them into 10th place, above London Irish and London Welsh, with six matches remaining in what is shaping up to be a fiercely contested relegation battle.

Successive wins against Exeter and, more crucially, fellow strugglers Welsh have finally generated some momentum at a critical stage.

But director of rugby Steve Diamond is still braced for a roller-coaster end to the Sharks' campaign.

"We're rocking on the seesaw, but we've gone the right way over this past four weeks," Diamond said. "We'll have some downturns along the way for the rest of the season and we're playing the best team in the country, but we can only give it our best shot."

Diamond has made five changes, among them starts for full-back Cameron Shepherd, prop Ross Harrison, hooker Tommy Taylor and lock Kearnan Myall. Quins have lost fly-half Nick Evans to an ankle injury, so Ben Botica continues in the number 10 shirt, while scrum-half Karl Dickson replaces Danny Care, who is on England duty.

Gloucester director of rugby Nigel Davies insists the stakes will be high when they entertain Worcester at Kingsholm. The Cherry and Whites, who were beaten 33-29 by play-off rivals Wasps last weekend, must win to maintain pressure on the top four.

"It's very much about keeping the energy in this group of players. They worked extremely hard last Sunday up at Wasps and were unlucky not to come away with the win," Davies said. "Worcester are fighting hard in the Premiership to ease clear of the bottom three teams, while we are trying to force our way into the top four. There is a lot at stake for both teams."

Gloucester have made two changes, with centre Henry Trinder in for Tim Molenaar and prop Dan Murphy replacing Nick Wood.

Worcester hand number eight Blair Cowan his first Premiership start of the season, while there are also call-ups for Chris Pennell - he replaces injured wing Josh Drauniniu - centre Josh Matavesi and hooker Ed Shervington.

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