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Wasps chief Young expecting tough challenge from Sale

Wasps will take a giant stride towards securing an Aviva Premiership home play-off if they beat Sale Sharks on Sunday.

A bonus point victory at the AJ Bell Stadium would send league leaders Wasps 10 points clear following title rivals Saracens' defeat against Gloucester on Friday night.

But Wasps rugby director Dai Young expects a testing encounter against opponents nine places and 30 points below his team in the Premiership.

"Sale has certainly been a tough trip for us," Young said.

"We haven't got a very good record up there, and have come away during the last two or three seasons thinking that it was a game that got away as they've always just done enough to beat us.

"Sale are on a good run at this moment in time, picking up some decent wins, so we know we will need to be mentally and physically on top of our game if we are to come away with the result we want.

"For us, we just try to turn it into another tough away game, which if we want to maintain our push to be in that top two, these are the games that we have got to win."

Wasps, unbeaten in the Premiership since mid-November, could see South Africa international full-back Willie Le Roux make his debut, having been named on the bench for Sunday's clash.

Elsewhere, prop Matt Mullan and hooker Tommy Taylor both start after returning from England squad duty, with flanker Ashley Johnson again captaining the team.

Sale show two changes from the side that beat Premiership rivals Newcastle last week. Josh Beaumont returns to the starting line-up at number eight, with TJ Ioane moving to flanker, while lock George Nott is handed a full league debut as Bryan Evans' second-row partner.

Sunday's other Premiership game sees Newcastle tackling Northampton at Kingston Park, with both clubs chasing top six places and automatic European Champions Cup qualification next season.

Newcastle boss Dean Richards has made four changes from the side that took on Sale last week, with wing Sinoti Sinoti making a first Premiership appearance in more than three months, while number eight Nili Latu is handed a first league start of the season after recovering from injury, with centre Dominic Waldouck and hooker Kyle Cooper also featuring.

Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder, meanwhile, has made two changes from the side edged out by Bath in a thrilling clash eight days ago, with lock Api Ratuniyarawa and flanker Calum Clark both making the starting XV.

"Every year, we've shown improvements," Richards said.

"But for a lot of people they haven't quite seen the amount of improvement until all of a sudden you start overtaking people, which is what we've done this season.

"When you do start overtaking them in terms of league position and you start getting more wins than people thought you would get, people do look at you as top-six contenders.

"I've always felt we should be (top-six contenders), and that has always been the goal, but you have still got to go out and do it.

"We just approach every game in the same way - as a game to be won. It's not about the dizzy heights or where your aspirations are, it is actually about nailing that win time and time again."


From Belfast Telegraph