Sale Sharks are determined to turn the AJ Bell Stadium into a fortress again this season as they kick-off their Aviva Premiership Rugby challenge in Manchester this Friday against Harlequins.
Last season saw the Sharks go unbeaten in 11 of their 12 home fixtures, and victory away to Newcastle Falcons on the final day of the campaign saw them pip Harlequins to sixth spot.
That impressive home form included a 29-23 thriller against Quins in March, thanks to tries from Will Addison and TJ Ioane and superb kicking from both Joe Ford and Danny Cipriani.
But Sale’s crucial win over Newcastle at the end of last season at Kingston Park is their only Aviva Premiership win in four.
The Sharks most recent home game at AJ Bell Stadium ended in an 11-12 defeat to Gloucester in Premiership Rugby, ending an eleven game unbeaten sequence at the venue in the competition.
Despite losing their opening fixture at Kingston Park this season, Sale will be confident of maintaining their impressive home form, while the visitors have lost in round two of the Aviva Premiership in the past three seasons.
“Quins have got a leadership team and new players in, so they’ll be throwing everything at us to get the win,” said boss Steve Diamond.
“For us, it’s back to the grindstone at the AJ Bell, and grind out another successful season at home.”
Centre Sam James said: “We’re looking forward to performing for the fans. We’re all excited to get out there and create that fortress again and with them behind us, there’s no reason we can’t do that.
“We’ve done some analysis on their strengths and we want to nullify that, but we also want to get in to our own game. We didn’t impress last week, so that’s what we want to do this week in front of a home crowd.”
Harlequins began their campaign with victory in round one for a sixth successive season in overcoming Bristol on Saturday.
Harlequins won their most recent away game at relegated London Irish in round 21 to end a six-game losing streak on the road in the competition.
Harlequins director of rugby John Kingston has called for some urgent improvements after struggling during Quins’ narrow win against Bristol Rugby last weekend.
“There were a crazy number of mistakes. Technically, we got some things really wrong,” he said.
“The thing that pleased me most was the way the group stuck together when they could’ve got frustrated.
“We were probably playing a bit too deep in the first half, considering the conditions. We found ourselves trying to force things after giving them a couple of easy scores.
“It was a day where you had to catch a ball before you passed it.”
AJ Bell Stadium, 8.15pm
Referee: Thomas Foley (22nd Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Roger Baileff & Jonathan Healy.
TMO: Keith Lewis