Sale Sharks head to south Wales for their opening match of the European Challenge Cup this weekend to play Newport Gwent Dragons, a side they haven’t faced since 2006.
The match will prove a chance for some of the Sharks’ rested players to make their case to get more starting action.
Nick Macleod is eager to be one of those players and, with Danny Cipriani dominating in the number 10 shirt so far this season, the fly half is yet to start for Sale.
“I want to push Danny for that 10 spot, I haven’t played much so far so I need to give a good performance,” said Macleod.
The 32-year-old is looking forward to the clash with Dragons, a team he has not faced since leaving Cardiff Blues for Sharks back in 2007.
“I can’t wait to go down. I’ve played against them many times before, it’s going to be a very tough game.
“They have got a similar mindset to us in the way they play.”
Macleod believes that his side will have to execute their game plan in order to leave Rodney Parade with the crucial points required to get out of the group.
The game against the Dragons is Sale’s first match outside of the Premiership this season and Macleod thinks it is good to challenge against different teams.
“It is always nice to have a change of focus from the Premiership which is such an intense competition week in week out,” he said.
“The Cup gives some of the lads, who haven’t had a chance to play, some game time to show what they can do.”
Steve Diamond looks to be making changes to the squad bringing in some players who haven’t had a chance to play in the Premiership, something Macleod approves of.
“This week we are probably going to give opportunities to guys who haven’t had much rugby, so they need to jump in and take those opportunities and put pressure on some of the lads who are ahead of them.
“We set some goals at the beginning of the season: we want to win every home game no matter what competition it is in and to get out of the group stages in Europe.”
Despite the Sharks eight wins in nine games against Welsh clubs Diamond is aware of the dangers posed by the Dragons’ stronghold.
“They have some really good players and one of the best number 8s in the world in Taulupe Faletau, so we’ve got a big game on our hands.
“Rodney Parade is a difficult ground to go to, so we’ll prepare as best we can; we’ve got to keep our momentum going.”
Diamond explained the changes to the side which faced Harlequins last weekend.
“The plan is for the squad to be playing: the lads that have been pushing hard in pre-season and not had many run-outs will be given a go.
“It will be a strong team, but there will be one or two who will be rested.
“Our artillery is pointed towards the Premiership, but we’re going to try and get out of the group in this competition. We’re going to be highly competitive in Europe.“
Team: 15. Tim Jeffers, 14. Tom Brady, 13. Mark Jennings, 12. Sam Bedlow, 11. Charlie Ingall, 10. Nick Macleod, 9. James Mitchell, 1. James Flynn, 2. Neil Briggs, 3. Brian Mujati, 4. Jonathan Mills (c), 5. Andrei Ostrikov, 6. Magnus Lund, 7. Andrew Hughes, 8. Viliami Fihaki
Replacements: 16. Cameron Neild, 17. Jake Pope, 18. Ross Harrison, 19. George Nott, 20. Josh Beaumont, 21. Joe Ford, 22. John O’Donnell, 23. Nev Edwards
Image courtesy of Sale Sharks via YouTube, with thanks.