TOP BAR - Fixtures

Macken to make first Gloucester Rugby start at Sale Sharks

On loan centre Brendan Macken will make his first start for Gloucester Rugby as the Cherry and Whites resume their Aviva Premiership campaign on Sunday when they take on the Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Macken will partner Billy Twelvetrees in the Gloucester midfield, the latter returning from England duty to skipper the side.

They feature in a youthful, exciting back line which sees Junior World Championship winners Billy Burns and Callum Braley start at full back and scrum half respectively.

Up front, Nick Wood returns from injury to make his first start since early January. He will pack down alongside Richard Hibbard, who also returns from Six Nations duty, and John Afoa.

Elliott Stooke and Tom Palmer form a new look second row pairing, and they will be backed up by James Hudson and Mariano Galarza, the latter featuring in a matchday squad for the first time.

Gloucester have spent the past few days away on a training camp and having the whole squad back together has been a bonus according to Director of Rugby David Humphreys.

"It's given us a huge boost for a number of reasons. Coming off the back of the Six Nations, it's helped us to welcome back a number of players and do a lot more work in this environment than we'd been able to do ordinarily.

"It's been perfect conditions, it hasn't been too warm and we've been able to do a huge amount of work on the training field ahead of an important run of games for us.

"From Sunday onwards, we will need to build on the performances that we put in over the past few weeks, it's about making sure that the small margins that can determine games go in our favour.

"We've worked hard. We know it's an important few weeks. Going to Sale will be tough, we know they're very good at home. But we know that if we can perform at the level that we did against Northampton then we can be competitive against anyone."

Gloucester Rugby:

Billy Burns; Charlie Sharples, Brendan Macken, Billy Twelvetrees (capt), Jonny May; James Hook, Callum Braley; Nick Wood, Richard Hibbard, John Afoa; Elliott Stooke, Tom Palmer; Tom Savage, Matt Kvesic, Sione Kalamafoni

Replacements:
Darren Dawidiuk, Yann Thomas, Sila Puafisi, Mariano Galarza, James Hudson, Dan Robson, Bill Meakes, Ross Moriarty

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