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Bath duo in frame for autumn Tests

Bath centres Jonathan Joseph and Kyle Eastmond have been backed as a potential England midfield partnership for next month's autumn Tests.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster faces a selection rethink due to injuries that will sideline centres Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi from Twickenham appointments with Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.

Former St Helens rugby league star Eastmond is already in the England elite player squad, and while Joseph would need to be promoted from the current England Saxons group, they could conceivably provide Lancaster with food for thought.

Both players featured prominently during this summer's successful two-Test series against Argentina.

They will team up in Friday night's Aviva Premiership clash against Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium, when victory for Bath would see them climb into second place behind league pace-setters Saracens.

Joseph scored a try in last weekend's comfortable victory over his former club London Irish, and Bath flanker Guy Mercer said: "With the form that those guys are in and the talent they have got, they are really sticking their hands up at the moment.

"I don't think they would just fill gaps - they would add something different as well.

"JJ (Joseph) is adding to his experience and Kyle has played for Great Britain in rugby league, so he has been in that arena before. It is not something that is foreign to them."

Bath boss Gary Gold hands first starts of the season to full-back Ollie Devoto, hooker Ross Batty and lock Will Spencer against Sale, with Tom Biggs replacing an injured Matt Banahan. Locks Dave Attwood and Dominic Day, hooker Rob Webber and full-back Anthony Watson are also unavailable due to injuries.

Sale will field a reshuffled back division as they look to rediscover winning ways following last week's defeat at Northampton.

Centre Jonny Leota returns after recovering from a facial injury, while scrum-half Dwayne Peel is also back and Phil Mackenzie starts on the wing. Rob Miller moves from wing to full-back and Mark Cueto from centre to wing.

"Obviously, it is a crucial game for us," Sale lock Michael Paterson said.

"We slipped up at home against Newcastle (last month), and we then beat Wasps, but then went down to Northampton and came away with nothing. It is a big game on Friday, and we need to get something from it."


From Belfast Telegraph