Match Preview - Sale Sharks
A place in the last eight of Europe’s premier club competition is the prize at stake for Glasgow Warriors this weekend, as the club travels south to take on Sale Sharks in the Heineken Champions Cup.
Dave Rennie’s men know that a victory is the minimum required to keep their quarter-final hopes alive, with their fate also dependent on other results around Europe this weekend.
The squad travels south on the back of last Saturday’s thrilling 31-31 draw with Exeter Chiefs at Scotstoun, having pushed the English Premiership leaders all the way in a pulsating encounter in Glasgow’s west end.
Sale Sharks are already out of contention for the knockout stages, but with a squad laced with world-class talent the Warriors will be under no illusions as to the challenge awaiting them on Saturday evening.
Here’s how the Sharks are shaping up ahead of this weekend’s clash:
Sale Sharks form guide
Steve Diamond’s side is unable to qualify for the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, with the English Premiership outfit currently bottom of Pool Two with one win from their five matches in the competition to date.
A losing bonus-point was all the Sharks could take from an opening round trip to Scotstoun, as Diamond’s men found themselves edged out in a 13-7 victory for the Warriors.
A 25-15 victory over La Rochelle in round two put the men from the north-west back in contention, but a narrow 22-20 defeat at home to Exeter in round three left their qualification hopes hanging by a thread.
Their fate was sealed in round four, as the Sharks found themselves overpowered at Sandy Park before defeat away to La Rochelle last weekend left them bottom of the standings heading into the final round of pool stage action.
The AJ Bell Stadium bade farewell to a former Warrior over the summer, as Josh Strauss made the switch to the Bulls after a short stint as a medical joker with Stade Francais.
Australia utility back James O’Connor was another to leave the Sharks following his Rugby World Cup commitments, returning home to join Super Rugby side the Reds ahead of the new season.
Experienced Samoan centre Johnny Leota and Russian second-row Andrei Ostrikov also said goodbye to the club, whilst George Nott and Paolo Odogwu joined London Irish and Wasps respectively.
Diamond and company caught the eye of many an observer with their off-season recruitment, as they looked to push on towards the top end of the English Premiership.
South African second-rower Lood de Jager headlined an influx of players from the Rainbow Nation, arriving following his side’s triumphant 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign.
Rob, Dan and Jean-Luc du Preez all also made the switch to the AJ Bell in the off-season, with Simon Hammersley and Mark Wilson linking up with the Sharks from Newcastle Falcons following their relegation in 2018/19.
Ones to watch
Try scorer in the Scotstoun meeting between the two sides, hooker Akker van der Merwe provides a constant threat with ball in hand in open play. The South African’s brand of hard carrying, coupled with a deceptive turn of pace, makes him a key cog in the Sale attack.
Full-back Hammersley’s performances with Newcastle earned him a reputation as one of the most dangerous counter-attackers in the Premiership, with Sale pouncing following the Falcons’ relegation. A safe pair of hands under the high ball to boot, the former Durham University man has added to Sale’s attacking options this season.
Whilst brother Tom has been winning plaudits across the rugby world with his performances for England, Ben Curry has been equally as impressive in a Sharks jersey. The flanker is just as capable of causing havoc from blindside flanker as he is from the openside, forming a potent double-pronged attack when paired with his sibling.
It was the Warriors that claimed the victory when the two sides met earlier in the season, as a DTH van der Merwe try proved decisive in front of the Warrior Nation.
A packed Scotstoun crowd roared with delight as the Canadian dived over for Glasgow’s sole score of the afternoon, man-of-the-match Adam Hastings contributing two penalties and a conversion to secure the points for Dave Rennie’s men.
Pascal Gauzere will be the man in the middle at the AJ Bell tomorrow afternoon, the Frenchman having also taken charge of Glasgow’s clash with Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park back in November.
Maxime Chalon and Julien Dufort will be his assistants, with Eric Gauzins serving as TMO.
Supporters not making the trip south for tomorrow’s encounter can follow the match live on BT Sport 3, with The Famous Grouse Fan Zone at The Old Schoolhouse showing all the build-up ahead of kick-off at 5.30pm.
Live radio commentary is also available on BBC Radio Scotland, whilst you can follow all the action as it unfolds via our Live Match Centre at glasgowwarriors.org.