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Preview: Sale Sharks v Saracens

Preview: Sale Sharks v Saracens

Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond called on his players to avenge their defeat to Saracens earlier in the season when the sides meet again at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday evening.

Sarries came out 24-19 winners in November’s Aviva Premiership clash, but recent form is certainly in the favour of the hosts as they seek retribution.

Diamond believes that after a run of seven straight victories in their own backyard, they have what it takes to defeat the Aviva Premiership’s second-placed team, who slipped off the top of the table last weekend.

“Losing at Saracens earlier in the season hurt but that’s the way it goes really,” said Diamond.

“If they don’t play at the level we expect on Friday and we play well, we might sneak it. If not, we could have a hard night on our hands.”

“I think there’s a bit of history between the clubs, with me having been there.

“The latter part of games is where they [Saracens] are strongest.

“So we’ll likely pick our side based on that and make sure we’ve got some fresh legs to bring on at the end.”

Friday’s match sees a showdown between two one-time England fly-halves Charlie Hodgson and the in-form Danny Cipriani, both of whom played key roles in November’s tie at Allianz Park.

Cipraini scored a try and kicked eight points to keep pace with Hodgson’s four penalties and a conversion that day.

After another strong showing last week against Gloucester Rugby from the former London Wasps back, Diamond is hoping that it will be Cipriani’s name dominating headlines again.

“They’re both very good players with very similar skill sets,” added Diamond.

“Danny’s movement and pace of passing last week really echoed of Charlie at times.”

Sale Sharks have won three of their last four matches in Aviva Premiership Rugby and are at their highest spot in the table since they were in 5th place in early October.

The Sharks have won their last six fixtures at AJ Bell Stadium since losing 20-27 to Bath in the LV= Cup in November.

Saracens 13-22 home defeat to London Irish on Saturday saw them lose top spot in the Premiership for the first time since round 1.

Saracens have lost their last two matches in all tournaments but have not lost three in a row since March 2010.

Sale’s only Premiership victory over Saracens in their last ten encounters was 28-22 at Edgeley Park in January 2011, Saracens have however lost on their last two visits to AJ Bell Stadium, both in the LV= Cup, in November 2012 and March 2013.

Centre Duncan Taylor missed Sarries defeat to London Irish but has his own frustrations to unleash against Sale Sharks on Friday night after forming part of the Scotland side beaten 20-0 by England.

“It’s always nice when you’re at the top so it is just a case of us getting back on the horse and getting back to winning ways,” he said.

“The first thing is to finish in the top four and then you want to get a home semi-final. There’s a long way to go still in the season.

“The guys were disappointed to lose but now we want to get straight back out and get on with winning games.”

AJ Bell Stadium (7:45pm)
Referee: Greg Garner (60th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Stuart Terheege & Paul Dix. TMO: David Sainsbury

Live on BT Sport

For more news, try out Match Preview Sale Sharks Saracens
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