23 September 2021
Fixture: London Irish v Sale Sharks
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 2
Date: Sunday 26th September 2021
Stadium: Brentford Community Stadium
Sale Sharks make the trip down south this Sunday, as London Irish host their first Gallagher Premiership fixture of the season at the Brentford Community Stadium.
Sharks started their season with a four-point return on the opening weekend, sealing a 20-19 victory courtesy of Kieran Wilkinson’s last-gasp penalty at the death against Bath Rugby.
The Manchester side are hoping to continue the trend of improving their league standing over the past five campaigns, which last season culminated in their first play-off appearance since their title winning season of 2005/06.
Sharks triumphed over Irish in both league matches on their way to a semi-final exit at the hands of Exeter last term, eventually falling to a 40-30 defeat to the Chiefs.
Irish held Sale 13-13 at the break in the first meeting in Round 3 before Akker van der Merwe and AJ MacGinty secured the result for the visitors, with the return fixture finishing 41-13 to the hosts at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Whilst having a relatively subdued summer in terms of transfer activity, Sale are replenished with new front-row acquisitions. Tommy Taylor and Simon McIntyre arrived from Wasps besides former Worcester Warriors prop Nick Schoenert.
The boss – Alex Sanderson
Alex Sanderson arrived at the AJ Bell Stadium six games into last season following the departure of longtime Director of Rugby, Steve Diamond.
The former Saracens Defensive Coach also represented both Sale Sharks and Saracens as a player, while boasting five England caps.
He made the switch to coaching in rather tragic circumstances following a career-ending back injury that resulted in a silverware-laden 12 year stay with the Men in Black.
Sanderson is on the right path to success having led Sharks to the aforementioned Premiership play-offs for only the third time in the professional era in 2020/21, and he will no doubt be confident of replicating that form again this season.
One to Watch – Raffi Quirke
It’s been quite the week for Raffi Quirke, who is deputising for Faf de Klerk whilst he’s on South African international duty.
Quirke – a native Mancunian – began his second full season for his hometown Club by starting against Bath and assisting perennial try-threat Byron McGuigan’s first of the season.
Whilst only playing in the first half against Bath due to picking up a knock, Sanderson not only stated Quirke should be able to play this weekend, but is another ‘Faf de Klerk in the making’ – high priase indeed for the 20 year-old.
England boss Eddie Jones has surveyed and recognised the youngster’s progression and awarded him with a place in the first training camp squad of the season, which commences on Sunday.
Classic Encounter – London Irish 38-0 Sale Sharks – Aviva Premiership – March 28th 2010
London Irish registered a resounding 38 unanswered points when they welcomed Kingsley Jones' Sale Sharks to the Madejski Stadium in the 2009/10 campaign.
The Exiles crossed the whitewash five times in an emphatic win, with winger John Rudd opening proceedings in the first half, alongside nine points from out-half Ryan Lamb.
Steffon Armitage bagged two of his own in the second period, with the help of Chris Hala'ufia on both occasions, before Peter Hewat's try grasped the bonus point.
Alex Corbisiero's additional resolute efforts added to the cause late on in an afternoon, where Charlie Hodgson missed his side's only opportunity at goal in the first half.
Tries: John Rudd, Steffon Armitage (2), Peter Hewat, Alex Corbisiero
Conversions: Ryan Lamb, Chris Malone
Penalties: Ryan Lamb (3)
Director of Rugby, Alex Sanderson, spoke of his pride in his team's ability to carve out a win last weekend.
“It should have been a 30-point game, we knocked on two over the line. The pressure in the first half we didn’t convert into points. But it meant with five minutes to go we were a point down.
“But we found a way to win. That’s also their superpower. They're special quality these lot, I’m dead proud of them."
(Preview compiled by Ryan Fitzgerald-Nolan)