Sale Sharks face a tough test this weekend in the Aviva Premiership as they travel to Twickenham Stoop to take on reigning Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins.
The Sharks are still searching for their first victory of the season following defeats to Exeter and Saracens, and Harlequins promise to provide the sternest test yet for a Sale side struggling to find form and confidence.
And director of rugby Bryan Redpath will be looking to experienced players like David Seymour, Mark Cueto and Sam Tuitupou to lead the way for the Sharks in London.
“No-one underestimates Harlequins after their first game this season against London Wasps, when you look at the belief they had to be so many points down and come back to win,” said Redpath.
“After winning the Aviva Premiership last season, they merit every credit. It’s a tough challenge for us on Saturday.
“After our performance against Saracens, we must build again, showing confidence in our attacking play as much as we have in our defence. We look forward to the game.”
It is often said that retaining a title is far more difficult than winning it in the first place, but Harlequins, however, do not appear to be subscribers to this particular theory.
They currently sit on top of the Aviva Premiership table with a maximum ten points from their opening fixtures.
Their pulsating 42-40 opening day victory over rivals Wasps was followed up by a hugely emphatic win over newly promoted London Welsh last week.
Much of the enthusiasm which was generated following qualification for the Heineken Cup last season as well as high profile additions such as Danny Cipriani and Director of Rugby Bryan Redpath has dissipated in Sale following their difficult start.
However, a win at the Stoop would kickstart Sharks’ season and give them momentum.
Cipriani will have a large role to play if the Sharks are to win this game. The word mercurial is often associated with Cipriani but the fact remains he can be a match-winner on any given day.
He started his first game of the season last week against Saracens, kicking 11 points. He will look to build on that performance against Harlequins as he continues to adapt to playing with his new teammates.
The Sharks show three changes from last Saturday’s game – Tom Brady comes in for his first game of the season, replacing the injured Will Addison, whilst Mark Easter and Mark Jennings are named on the bench.
Harlequins director of rugby, Conor O’Shea, has his side playing an expansive, attacking brand of rugby which has yielded eleven tries in two games thus far this season.
They also boast a very potent backline which is superbly orchestrated by former All-Black out-half Nick Evans, while England internationals Mike Brown and Ugo Monye have both notched two tries apiece already this season.
Sale Sharks: 15.Rob Miller, 14.Tom Brady, 13.Johnny Leota, 12.Sam Tuitupou, 11.Mark Cueto, 10.Danny Cipriani, 9.Dwayne Peel, 1.Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 2.Joe Ward, 3.Vadim Cobilas, 4.Richie Gray, 5.Kearnan Myall, 6.James Gaskell, 7.David Seymour (capt.), 8.Richie Vernon.
Replacements: 16.Tommy Taylor, 17.Alasdair Dickinson, 18.Henry Thomas, 19.Fraser McKenzie, 20.Mark Easter, 21.Will Cliff, 22.Nick Macleod, 23.Mark Jennings.