Sale Sharks’ James Gaskell bidding to banish torrid season with survival and book LV Cup final place

By James Scott

Sale Sharks’ James Gaskell is determined to help transform his side’s season by beating Saracens at the Salford City Stadium and reaching the LV= Cup final. 

The Sharks face the Aviva Premiership league leaders for the fourth time this season, looking to reach the Anglo Welsh cup final for the first time since 2007. 

And 22-year-old flanker Gaskell is champing at the bit to turn-out for his boyhood club to fight for a Sixways cup final spot. 

“The cup is massive,” said Gaskell. “This is the club that I grew up watching and I saw the boys go to the Premiership final in 2006.

“If we can keep fighting for our lives in the league and stay up as well as reaching an LV= Cup final, it makes the season look a lot better. 

“This is a chance to really get Sale back on track and it will be a massive, massive honour to play this weekend and hopefully the final the weekend after.

“It’s not very often you get a chance to play in a semi-final or a final of a competition so it’s something we’ve got to enjoy while we’re there.”

Sarries travel to Manchester in fine form, having won 11 of their last 12 fixtures, and face a Sale side, who have had consecutive defeats.  

However, the Sharks have already beaten Saracens 25-23 in the group stages of this competition, and Gaskell is adamant his side should be brimming with confidence. 

“We’ve got to take a lot of confidence because when they came up twice this year it’s been two very close games,” said Gaskell. 

“When we went down there we actually put in a good shift – apart from a few injuries in the first ten minutes which disrupted things, we actually played some decent rugby.

“The boys have come into form and played well as a team and there’s a bit of confidence so I think on our day we can put pressure on any team.

“However, you can’t take away from the fact that Sarries are top of the league – they’re a class outfit and whatever team they bring it’s going to be a hard game.”

Danny Cipriani will return to fly-half after missing the Leicester defeat, and Welshman Andy Powell comes in at the base of the scrum.  

Saracens will be without England stars Owen Farrell, Chris Ashton, Alex Goode, Brad Barritt and Mako Vunipola, who are currently on Six Nations duty.

Former Sale Sharks star and leading all-time Premiership points scorer Charlie Hodgson is on the bench for the Sarries.

Line-up: Cameron Shepherd; Tom Brady, Jonny Leota, Nick Macleod,Charlie Ingall; Danny Cipriani, Cillian Willis; Ross Harrison, TommyTaylor, Henry Thomas, Fraser McKenzie,Tom Holmes, James Gaskell, David Seymour, Andy Powell.

Replacements: Marc Jones, Alasdair Dickinson, Tony Buckley, Andrei Ostrikov, James Doyle, Nathan Fowles, Sam James, Will Addison. 

Image courtesy of PremiershipRugby, via YouTube, with thanks

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