Northern lights Sale and Newcastle face off in Premiership top four battle

来源:永乐国际-官网√ 作者:佘忿饣 人气: 发布时间:2019-07-20
摘要:Not since Sale won their only title 12 years ago have English rugby’s northern lights shone so brightly. With three rounds left both the Sharks and Newcastle are strong contenders for Europe’s Champio

Not since Sale won their only title 12 years ago have English rugby’s northern lights shone so brightly. With three rounds left both the Sharks and Newcastle are strong contenders for Europe’s Champions Cup qualification with a top-four spot hinging on the outcome of Friday ’s shoot-out at Kingston Park.

The two clubs are separated by only one point in fifth and sixth positions, with the winners set to jump into third. Wasps and Leicester will not be easily denied play-off places but fifth-placed , with two of their last three games at home plus a trip to face the Tigers, can still shape their own destiny.

Sale will have to dig even deeper, with a long hike to Exeter and a final home fixture against Leicester rounding off a tricky run-in, but their confidence has been given a timely lift by . Trailing 17-0 in the first half they came back to win 28-27 courtesy of Marland Yarde’s last-second try.

According to their captain, Jono Ross, the trick now is to reproduce their dominant home form on the road. This season they have won away against only the bottom three teams in the league and will need to find an extra gear to outwit the Falcons and the Chiefs. “We think we’re a good side but we haven’t been as good as we’ve wanted to away from home,” Ross said. “We need to replicate the performances we’ve put in at the AJ Bell. Hopefully that will be enough.”

A big finish would also improve Ross’s chances of a place on England’s tour to his native South Africa. The Johannesburg-born back-row forward is qualified for England via a grandmother from Essex and Sale’s director of rugby, Steve Diamond, said Eddie Jones and England’s forwards coach, Steve Borthwick, have been making inquiries.

Quick guide

Race for the Premiership's top four

Remaining fixtures

Exeter (already qualified for play-offs) L Irish (a), (h), Harlequins (a)

Saracens Bath (h), London Irish (a), Gloucester (h)

Wasps Worcester (h), Northampton (h), Newcastle (a)

Leicester Northampton (h), Newcastle (h), Sale (a)

Newcastle Sale (h), Leicester (a), Wasps (h)

Sale Newcastle (a), Exeter (a), Leicester (h)

Gloucester Harlequins (h), Bath (h), Saracens (a)

Ross, who had stints as a young player with Harlequins, Saracens and the Bulls in South Africa, spent three years playing alongside Sergio Parisse for Stade Français before joining Sale last summer and has become an influential figure for the Sharks, assuming the captaincy after an injury to Will Addison. “For me it’s about performing well for Sale week-in week-out. I don’t want to think about things that are out of my control. I’ve had no conversations with Eddie but every player has international aspirations.”

The 27-year-old is clearly resilient, having featured in every league game this season, and has been pleasantly surprised by life in the Premiership compared with the slower-paced Top 14. “The speed of the game and the conditioning are quite different to what I experienced in France. It’s more similar to back home in South Africa. There are also a fantastic group of people here. We care about each other and I think that shows.”

For the Newcastle game Paolo Odogwu and Luke James start at left wing and inside-centre respectively, with the tighthead prop WillGriff John returning to the front row and Byron McGuigan named at full-back. The 18-year-old Cameron Redpath, the English-qualified son of the former Scotland international Bryan, is poised to make his Premiership debut off the bench.

Newcastle’s lineup features Gary Graham, who is back after injuring his neck at England training in early February, with Joel Hodgson, the league’s most accurate goalkicker this season, chosen ahead of Toby Flood at fly-half. “For us it’s a must-win game in terms of keeping our top-four hopes alive,” said Dean Richards, the Falcons’ director of rugby. “If we don’t win we can almost kiss the semi-finals goodbye.”