Aviva Premiership: Sale Sharks v London Irish preview

Last Updated: 20/12/13 6:59pm

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Sky Bet

South African World Cup-winning tighthead prop CJ van der Linde will make his London Irish debut in the Aviva Premiership clash at Sale Sharks on Friday night.

The Exiles also welcome back Ian Humphreys from injury and he will partner Tomas O'Leary at half-back.

Eamonn Sheridan and Fergus Mulchrone will form the centre partnership with Topsy Ojo, Andrew Fenby and James O'Connor in the back three.

Matt Parr, Jimmy Stevens and Van der Linde will start in the front row with Ian Gough and George Skivington in the second row. Blair Cowan, Jebb Sinclair and Chris Hala'ufia make up the back row.

Irish sit 11th out of 12 in the Premiership, and rugby director Brian Smith admitted clashes with fellow strugglers Gloucester and Worcester after Friday's contest have teed up a pivotal Christmas run.

He said: "We've got some artillery there that we've been holding back for the last two weeks, with good reason.

"These next three league games are massive for us, and I think we're a good enough rugby team to win all three.

"But we've definitely got to step up to the plate. On a Saturday afternoon when the sun's shining you can play the brand of rugby we love to play, and move the ball around.

"But if you go in with the intentions of doing that on a Friday night in Manchester, it simply won't suit the conditions."

Cipriani continues

For Sale, Danny Cipriani continues at fly-half after his impressive 28-point haul against Oyonnax in the Challenge Cup.

A new second-row pairing sees Jonathan Mills partner Michael Paterson in the engine room.

Prop Eifion Lewis-Roberts will make his 100th Premiership appearance if he joins Friday's fray from the bench.

Former London Welsh captain Mills has challenged eighth-placed Sale to start their Christmas league schedule with a win, especially with trips to Leicester and Newcastle in the festive offing.

"Friday is the start of three crucial Premiership games for us," Mills told the Manchester Evening News.

"And if we can win two out of those three games it will really set the season up for us."

Sale: Miller, Brady, Jennings, Tuitupou, Cueto, Cipriani, Peel; Harrison, Taylor, Cobilas, Mills, Paterson, Braid, Seymour, Gaskell

Replacements: Jones, Lewis-Roberts, Thomas, Kulemin, Ostrikov, Cliff, Ford, Mckenzie

London Irish: O'Connor, Ojo, Mulchrone, Sheridan, Fenby, Humphreys, O'Leary; Parr, Stevens, Van der Linde, Skivington, Gough, Sinclair, Cowan, Hala'ufia

Replacements: Mayhew, Yapp, Halavatau, Rouse, Treviranus, Lewington, Geraghty, Allinson

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