Forget the derby: Sale Sharks’ James Gaskell ready to shock ‘Manchester City’ of rugby union…Toulon

By James Scott

James Gaskell insisted Sale Sharks can spring a surprise against big-spending Toulon as they prepare to entertain the French league leaders in the Heineken Cup.

Sale Sharks director of rugby John Mitchell will take charge of his first Heineken Cup game, after joining on a permanent basis last week and while the Sharks have managed just one victory in the Aviva Premiership this year, they are second in Pool Six, behind the French side.

Sale’s back row James Gaskell admitted they face a stiff challenge against a star-studded Toulon line-up, but stressed no-one should write the home side off.

“Toulon are the Man City of rugby union,” said the former Sale Sharks club captain.

“When you’ve got money like that you can bring players in like they have, and obviously they’re a great side. 

“But French sides are renowned for not travelling well and this year we’ve played well at home, we’ve dug deep and we’ve come from behind and made teams grind out results.

“It’s not going to be easy for them this weekend and if they come here with the idea they’re going to get an easy ride, they will be surprised in the first 20 minutes. 

“It’s an exciting opportunity to play against the likes of Johnny Wilkinson and Matt Giteau, but it’s a challenge that we’re looking forward to.”

Saturday’s game will also see the return of a familiar face in Andrew Sheridan, who spent nearly ten years at Sale and clocked up more than 100 appearances.

Gaskell is looking forward to facing the man he captained during the majority of the 2012/11 season, but hostilities will resume when they take to the field.

“It will be good to play against Shezza, it seems like he’s doing well out there,” said the Crewe-born back row.

“He’s starting week in, week out and it’s obviously the lifestyle that suits him.

“Of course we’ll welcome him back but once we’re on the pitch it will be a different matter.”

Sale’s game with Toulon is the first of two fixtures against the French side, with the second clash being played at the Stade Felix Mayol on December 16.

Sale Sharks: 15.Cameron Shepherd, 14.Mark Jennings, 13.Corne Uys, 12.Johnny Leota, 11.Mark Cueto, 10.Rob Miller, 9.Will Cliff, 1.Ross Harrison, 2.Tommy Taylor, 3.Tony Buckley, 4.Richie Gray, 5.Fraser McKenzie, 6.James Gaskell, 7.David Seymour (capt.), 8.Richie Vernon

Replacements: 16.Tom Cruse, 17.Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 18.Vadim Cobilas, 19.Kearnan Myall, 20.Andy Powell, 21.Nathan Fowles, 22.Danny Cipriani, 23.Charlie Amesbury

Picture courtesy of Premiership Rugby, via YouTube, with thanks

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