Sunday 29 January 2012 – 3.30pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
LV= Cup Group 3 #3
Gary Gold takes charge of the Falcons for the first time this weekend as we meet Sale in a kind-of local derby (in the sense that we are both north of Nottingham).
This is likely to be our penultimate LV= Cup match of the season with Scarlets and Harlequins heading Group 3 with 10 and nine points respectively, ahead of Gloucester and ourselves with five each. Both Scarlets and Quins will be looking for home wins this weekend to cement their places at the top of the group.
After this Sunday our last group game is at Leicester a week tomorrow, not the easiest even with the Tiggers’ lack of interest in this cup over the last year or two.
Of course though there are more important matters for us this season than getting back to the LV= Cup Final that we lost so badly in 2011, namely surviving in the Premiership, and the coming two games allow Gary Gold a chance to build towards the return to league action.
Sale have recently seen Andrew Sheridan sign for Toulon from next season, though he rarely plays anyway these days due to injury so might not be so much of a miss.
They do have a number of other internationals though such as England’s Hendre Fourie, who turned down a move to Kingston Park to join Sale last summer, allegedly because Manchester is closer to Rotherham than Newcastle. Shame we didn’t let Kevin Keegan at him.
Mark Cueto is perhaps their star player now Charlie Hodgson has left, and Andy Powell is never far from controversy in the back row. Powell will be hoping for a big role in the Six Nations for Wales, though countryman Dwayne Peel has been left out of Warren Gatland’s squad. Former Gloucester prop Alasdair Dickinson, number 8 Richie Vernon and young lock Fraser McKenzie are all in the Scotland squad.
Last season’s skipper David Gaskell has been named England Saxons captain for their game against Ireland Wolfhounds in Exeter tomorrow, and his fellow Shark back-rower Kearnan Myall is on the bench.
Former Falcons Rob Miller and Charlie Amesbury are also in Tony Hanks’ squad. Miller has come into his own this season at full-back, playing well against us at Edgeley Park on Boxing Day.
If you want a more tenuous link to the Falcons, captain Sam Tuitupou, formerly of Worcester, is good friends with Tane Tu’ipulotu who of course scored our winning try in the semi-final of this tournament 10 months ago.
Sale are our oldest opponents of those clubs currently in the Premiership, Gosforth having played them for the first time back in 1951. We also have a long history in the cups, with quite a good record:
29/09/1973 North Road RFU Cup Preliminary W18-6
03/04/1976 Heywood Road John Player Cup SF W12-3
06/01/2001 Kingston Park Tetley’s Bitter Cup SF W37-25
17/04/2004 Twickenham Powergen Cup Final W37-33
02/10/2005 Kingston Park Powergen Cup W34-9
29/09/2006 Edgeley Park EDF Energy Cup L5-28
That last meeting in September 2006 was a bit of a shocker. Many didn’t notice and few cared about Matt Thompson’s last-minute try. Mind, some revenge was perhaps what Sale deserved after our quite incredible Twickenham win in 2004, one of the great days in our club’s history.
It took a long time for Sale to win a competitive game in the North East, but after their first KP victory in September 2008, their last two visits have ended in draws, most recently a year ago when a controversial try by Sisa Koyamaibole looked to have given the Sharks a win in front of the ESPN cameras, until Tim Swinson crossed with three minutes left to secure a 19-19 draw, aided by Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion.
Gopperth starts a second successive match at full-back, but the big news for us is the return on the bench of Jon Golding. And the fact that all of our players are playing in position, pretty much. Richard Boyle could make his debut from the bench:
15 Jimmy Gopperth, 14 Ryan Shortland, 13 Corne Uys, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Suka Hufanga, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Chris Pilgrim, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 James Hall, 4 Tim Swinson, 5 Adriaan Fondse, 6 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch, 8 Mark Wilson.
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Jonny Golding, 18 Ashley Wells, 19 Richard Boyle, 20 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 21 Richard Mayhew, 22 Will Chudley, 23 Tom Bedford.
Amesbury and Miller start for Sale alongside NFL legend and husband of Gisele Bundchen Tom Brady (’s namesake), and Fourie, who as I’ve said could’ve been wearing black this Sunday. He probably doesn’t picking Sale over us.
15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Nick MacLeod, 11 Charlie Amesbury, 10 Rob Miller, 9 Dwayne Peel (c), 1 Lee Imiolek, 2 Joe Ward, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 4 Andrei Ostrikov, 5 Wame Lewaravu, 6 Onasa’I Auva’a, 7 Hendre Fourie, 8 Mark Easter.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 David Seymour, 21 Scott Mathie, 22 Mark Jennings, 23 Luther Burrell.
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