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Strettle urges Sarries to respond

Saracens' bid to regain top spot in the Aviva Premiership has been boosted by a number of returning internationals for Friday night's clash against Sale Sharks.

The long-time league leaders head to the AJ Bell Stadium following a surprise home defeat at the hands of London Irish last time out.

Northampton then took advantage of that slip-up by edging past Exeter and claiming Premiership pole position, although it will be a short-lived stay if Saracens topple Sale.

Full-back Alex Goode, centre Brad Barritt and prop Mako Vunipola, who were all on England's bench against RBS 6 Nations opponents Scotland five days ago, feature in the starting XV.

And there is also a chance for wing Chris Ashton, who missed out on England selection in the opening two Six Nations games, while half-backs Charlie Hodgson and Richard Wigglesworth both face their former club.

"We are looking to respond," Saracens' England international wing David Strettle said.

"It is always important to respond, and we always say that it's a sign of a good team when they respond from defeat."

Sale boss Steve Diamond, meanwhile, has made three changes - all up front - from the side that accounted for Gloucester last Friday.

Prop Eifion Lewis-Roberts replaces Ross Harrison, while hooker Marc Jones starts instead of Tommy Taylor and lock Andrei Ostrikov takes over from Jonathan Mills. Harrison, Taylor and Mills are all on bench duty, along with England prop Henry Thomas.

Victory for Sale would take them into a title play-off position, which shows the extent of their revival following last season's prolonged struggle.

" As a squad, we are in a different position now, compared to last year, and the team has got a real belief about it," Diamond told the club's official website.

" We didn't play as well as we could on Friday (against Gloucester), but we got the result, and the icing on the cake was getting the bonus point.

"Friday's game is a huge game for us.

"Saracens, at any time, are dangerous, but on the back of the defeat against London Irish we know they will be up for Friday night's game."

Sale have won three of their last four Premiership fixtures, while they are unbeaten for six games in all competitions on home soil - a run that stretches back to November.

But they have only got the better of Saracens once in the last 10 Premiership encounters - a 28-22 success at their former Edgeley Park home three years ago.

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