Premiership: Rob du Preez hits 100 for Sale Sharks while duo return from injury for Bath

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Round 16 of the Premiership season begins with second-placed Sale Sharks playing host to tenth-placed Bath at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday.

South African fly-half Rob du Preez will make his 100th appearance for Sale Sharks while forward Alex Groves is in line for his Premiership debut this week.

Alex Sanderson makes seven changes to his starting XV as his squad returns to league action following defeat at the hands of Ulster in the Champions Cup.

In the forward pack, there is a complete change of the Sharks front-row as Simon McIntyre, Tommy Taylor and Nick Schonert all return for the Bath clash.

Cobus Wiese links back up with Josh Beaumont in the second-row following a one-match suspension for a dangerous clearout in the Sharks’ clash with Toulouse two weeks ago.

Jono Ross captains the side in the absence of Ben Curry, whilst Sam Dugdale steps in to replace the flanker after his England call-up. Jean-Luc du Preez retains the number eight shirt with twin-brother Dan remaining on the sidelines due to an ongoing hand injury.

Gus Warr continues to provide a platform for success at scrum-half and links up with centurion Rob du Preez, who is named at fly-half.

The ever-present Sam James retains the 13 shirt with Ryan Mills picked at inside centre in the absence of Manu Tuilagi. The former Wasps centre is one of two changes in the Sharks’ backline.

Sanderson’s second change in the backs comes in the form of Tom Roebuck, who replaces Arron Reed on the wing after an impressive cameo in the Champions Cup. Tom O’Flaherty is named on the other wing, with academy graduate Joe Carpenter at full-back.

On the bench, Ewan Ashman, Ross Harrison and Joe Jones are named as front-row replacements, with Groves and Rouban Birch providing further cover for the forwards. Raffi Quirke, Luke James and Arron Reed cover the backs.

Injury returns for Josh McNally and Beno Obano

Meanwhile, Josh McNally will make his return to action from the start when Bath take on Sale.

The 32-year-old featured three times at the beginning of the season before injuring his shoulder. After almost four months of rehabilitation with the club’s medical team, he has been named in the second-row alongside Dave Attwood.

There is a similar story for Beno Obano who has been sidelined with a knee injury sustained on the opening day of the season. The England prop is back on the bench following a similar timeframe to McNally.

The starting pack has five changes in total from the draw against Glasgow Warriors last time out. Valeriy Morozov takes the one jersey against his former club while Niall Annett starts at hooker with Tom Dunn on international duty. D’Arcy Rae is reinstated at tighthead prop with Attwood and McNally pairing up in the lock positions.

The back-row of Ted Hill, Chris Cloete and Miles Reid will link up once again.

Captain Ben Spencer is promoted back to a starting berth and partners Orlando Bailey in the half-back slots, while Max Ojomoh switches from wing to inside centre. Jonathan Joseph joins him in the midfield with Ollie Lawrence away with England.

Matt Gallagher and Will Butt are named in the back three along with Joe Cokanasiga to complete the backline.

On the bench, Sam Underhill is fit to be selected and Scotland international Cameron Redpath is available – another set to take on his ex-team.

Form: Sale Sharks‘ only defeat in their last five Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures was 14-20 at Newcastle on 23 December. The Sharks have lost just once at home in Premiership Rugby since 1 April: 13-29 to Harlequins on 23 October. Bath Rugby have lost just two of their last six Gallagher Premiership Rugby encounters, at home to Harlequins in Round 12 and away at Exeter in Round 13. Bath have won only three times away from home in Premiership Rugby since February 2021 and all were at Kingston Park against Newcastle Falcons. The Sharks are unbeaten in their last four clashes with Bath since the South-Westerners 27-22 victory at Salford City Stadium in February 2021. Bath have won on two of their last three visits to Salford.

The teams:

Sale Sharks: 15 Joe Carpenter, 14 Tom Roebuck, 13 Sam James, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Gus Warr, 8 Jean-Luc du Preez, 7 Sam Dugdale, 6 Jono Ross (c), 5 Josh Beaumont, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Simon McIntyre
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Alex Groves, 20 Rouban Birch, 21 Raffi Quirke, 22 Luke James, 23 Arron Reed

Bath: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Ojomoh, 11 Will Butt, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Miles Reid, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Josh McNally, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 D’Arcy Rae, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Valeriy Morozov
Replacements: 16 Tom Doughty, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Fergus Lee-Warner, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Cameron Redpath, 23 Sam Underhill

Date: Friday, January 27
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce, Peter Allan
TMO: Tom Foley

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