This weekend sees the first Wasps vs Sale Sharks game of the season. Wasps travel up the M6 to Salford to take on their mid tabel rivals with a possible jump of four places in the league up for grabs this is a must win game for both teams.
Wasps vs Sale Sharks Preview
After some of the astonishing wins this year – Leinster, Toulon, Bath – Wasps fans scould be forgiven for feeling quietly confident ahead of this weekend’s game against Sale Sharks at the A J Bell stadium in Salford. But is that feeling justified?
Wasps are currently one point ahead of Sharks in the Premiership with both teams languishing in the lower half of the table. However Sale have arguably not faced the same quality of opposition at this point. But is it really that simple?
Despite their seemingly poor run of form Sale Sharks are unbeaten at home since last April when they lost to Quins, and Wasps have only won one of their last four games. On top of this Wasps have only managed to win one game against Sale in their last seven meetings, a home game at the Ricoh Arena almost exactly one year ago. As if this wasn’t enough Wasps have only won once away to Sale in the last ten years.
So it is safe to say that winning this game will be a big achievement for Wasps if they manage it.
For the last few seasons Wasps have struggled massively to win away from home, however this season they seem to have put that behind them with wins against Bath, London Irish, and Leinster away so far. But the AJ Bell Stadium is never an easy place to visit and come away with a win.
The battle at the set piece will almost certainly set the tone for the whole game. The Wasps pack is likely to have the edge in the scrum with Mullan, Johnson, and Cittadini likely to start against the Sale front row of Harrison, Taylor and Cobilas. But the line out may be a different story. Last week Wasps struggled against Saracens, with Itoje disrupting and stealing the ball on numerous occassions, and Sale’s Bryn Evans managing to steal no less than 5 lineouts against the otherwise dominant Exeter Chiefs.
The question over who should play Fly half for Wasps continues after Jimmy Gopperth failing to impress against Saracens the very game after such a dominant performance against Bath. Sale have no such issues with former Wasp Cipriani nailed on for selection.
Sale have dangerous players all over the field with Stringer, Arscott, Tuitupou, and Braid to name but a few. But if Wasps can recreate the form they have showed in Europe they should be able to take the win.
The team I’d like to see is:
1. Matt Mullan
2. Ashley Johnson
3. Lorenzo Cittadini
4. Joe Launchbury
5. James Gaskell
6. James Haskell
7. George Smith (if fit)
8. Nathan Hughes (if fit)
9. Joe Simpson
10. Ruaridh Jackson
11. Frank Halai
12. Ben Jacobs
13. Elliot Daly
14. Alapti Leiua
15. Charles Piutau
16. Ed Shervington
17. Simon McIntyre
18. Jake Cooper-Wooley (if fit)
19. Bradley Davies
20. Sam Jones
21. Dan Robson
22. Jimmy Gopperth
23. Josh Bassett
Obviously there are some “if fit”s in there, and I do not expect for a second that Dai Young will have Bassett on the bench instead of Sailosi Tagicakibau. I also expect him to start with Gopperth again, but I feel Jackson’s natural open style of play is more likely to create scoring opportunities against the Sale defence than Gopperths solid, ball in hand style.
Either way it looks to be a very interesting match up, and one I am struggling to predict. If Wasps can recreate the form they have shown recently then they will take the win comfortably, but consistency has been a big issue for Wasps, so whatever the result, I suspect Wasps vs Sale Sharks is going to be close.
Do you agree? Have your say here.