Just as they are regaining momentum at the business end of the Guinness Premiership, another unkind break for Sale. Up into fourth place, just four points behind leaders Bath after three league wins out of four and a near miss away to the table-toppers, the Sharks will be without the bite of their great White when they travel to Worcester today.
Yesterday it was confirmed that Jason White, their blindside flanker, suffered a dislocated finger while picking up the man of the match award (gingerly, no doubt) in Sale's 31-3 home against Wasps on Boxing Day.
"It was a bad injury and he has had surgery to repair the damage," Philippe Saint-André, Sale's director of rugby, said. "On the plus side Chris Jones takes his place after making his comeback on Boxing Day."
The Sharks have endured a torrid time on the injury front this season, with centre Lee Thomas, hooker Sébastien Bruno, lock Sean Cox and second row cum flanker Kristian Ormsby all on the long term casualty list. White is expected to be back in training before the opening rounds of the Six Nations Championships next month, but this latest setback for the 30-year-old has come just as he has played himself back into form after losing the Scotland No 6 shirt and his country's captaincy midway through last year's Six Nations.
A Sale win on the road today would come as a tonic to the club. "We need to keep in touch with the Premiership leaders," Saint-André said. "Next week we entertain London Irish and that too will be a huge game for us."
Irish forfeited top spot with a 16-13 loss against Saracens at Vicarage Road last Saturday, their first defeat in 11 matches in all competitions. Just a point behind Bath, the Exiles could hardly have asked for a more promising fixture as they attempt to get back in the winning saddle this afternoon. They are at home to a Newcastle Falcons side who have yet to pick up a point away from Kingston Park this season, but who have the one-time All Black front row fixture Carl Hayman starting at tighthead prop for the first time since October.
With third placed Gloucester also enjoying home advantage today, against Sarries, Bath will have to come up with something special on the road tomorrow if they are to finish the weekend still top of the pile. Steve Meehan's men travel to Leicester minus hooker Lee Mears and prop Matt Stevens, who are both rested as part of the England Elite Squad agreement, plus lock Danny Grewcock, who is to have a foot operation. They are also without their 6ft 7in try machine Matt Banahan, who has a neck injury.