Sale Sharks and Bath set for Heineken Cup qualification face-off


Sale Sharks and Bath will continue their quest for the one remaining prize available to them this season when they clash at Edgeley Park tomorrow night.

Both clubs are currently in the Aviva Premiership's mid-table zone after winning just 16 of 38 league games between them this season.

But a top-six finish - and prized Heineken Cup qualification next term - can still be achieved.

Sale are currently seventh, two points behind sixth-placed Gloucester and two in front of Bath, with tomorrow's west country opponents currently occupying eighth spot.

Defeat for Bath in Stockport - their first fixture since it was announced that rugby director Sir Ian McGeechan and forwards coach Martin Haag will not be at the club beyond this season - would effectively end hopes of a top-half finish.

After Sale, Bath host struggling Wasps and then visit Leicester, while the Sharks head to Gloucester on Saturday week before hosting Premiership leaders Harlequins.

Sale were beaten narrowly by relegation favourities Newcastle last time out, with Bath suffering a 26-6 home defeat against title play-off contenders Northampton.

"We were competitive at Newcastle, but we didn't manage the game for the full 80 minutes," Sale chief executive Steve Diamond said.

"We have hopefully rectified that in training.

"Our side has trained well this week, and we are looking forward to the final Friday night Premiership fixture at Edgeley Park. We aim to continue to progress and produce a good, hard-working performance."

Sale will embark on a ground-share with rugby league club Salford City Reds next season, and for their penultimate home game in Stockport the Sharks show three changes.

Andrei Ostrikov starts in the second-row alongside Kearnan Myall, while hooker Joe Ward also features and James Gaskell switches from lock to flanker, packing down alongside back-row colleagues David Seymour and Andy Powell.

Flanker Carl Fearns will face his former club, meanwhile, with Matt Banahan and Olly Barkley teaming up in Bath's midfield, and young fly-half prospect Tom Heathcote also starting.

Victory for Sale would see them overhaul Gloucester, but it is likely to be shortlived, given that the Cherry and Whites host Newcastle on Saturday, when Wasps visit Quins, Northampton tackle Leicester, Saracens travel to London Irish and Worcester entertain Exeter.


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