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Diamond warning over Irish

Sale sporting director Steve Diamond expects his charges to face a "fired up" London Irish side when they look to continue their surprise assault on the Aviva Premiership's play-off places at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.

The Sharks, relegation candidates in the previous two seasons, currently lie fifth in the table, just three points adrift of the top four slot that would secure them a first semi-final appearance since they won the title in 2006. They were narrowly beaten at Leicester last weekend in a thrilling contest.

Diamond, who earlier this week also assumed the role of chief executive at Edgeley Park following Mick Hogan's decision to leave the club, said: "We're going down to one of the most difficult away venues. London Irish are a side whose results can be hard to predict, but they'll be fired up after their reverse at Bath last Sunday."

He added: "We'll be travelling with a largely similar team to that which played at Leicester, and with the same mindset."

Diamond has shuffled his pack as prop Tony Buckley and flanker Onosa'i Auva'a replace the injured Henry Thomas and David Seymour respectively while James Gaskell moves into the second row as Scotland international Richie Vernon claims a back row slot.

While Diamond can name a reasonably settled side, his London Irish counterpart Toby Booth has rung the changes following their 30-3 humbling at The Rec, the heaviest league defeat of his time in charge.

Captain Clarke Dermody will make his 100th appearance when he leads the side out with hooker David Paice joining the Kiwi in the front row.

Matt Garvey stars at lock and Alex Gray getting the nod at number eight while behind the scrum Jonathan Spratt comes into midfield and Adrian Jarvis starts ahead of Steven Shingler, currently engulfed in a row over his international eligibility, at fly-half.

Booth said: "Consistency comes from continuity in selection. It would be nice to be able to select the same team two weeks in a row. Having said that the boys coming in have done well in the earlier part of the season and get the chance to put on the shirt in a very important time of the season for us."

Sunday's remaining fixture sees Saracens and Bath meet at Vicarage Road in the 2,000th Premiership game, 15 years after the competition started.

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