Fixture: London Irish vs Sale Sharks
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 20
Date: Sunday 12th March 2023
Venue: Gtech Community Stadium
Officials: Referee: Matthew Carley; Assistant Referee 1: Charlie Gayther; Assistant Referee 2: Simon Haring; No4: Alex Thomas; TMO: Dean Richards; Timekeeper: Bob Ockenden; Citing Officer: James Hall.
London Irish open up a stacked home billing in March this Sunday with the visit of Sale Sharks to the Gtech Community Stadium in Round 20 of the Gallagher Premiership.
Declan Kidney’s Exiles return to the Gtech having not lost back-to-back home league fixtures in almost 12 months, extending a run of four wins in five Premiership outings last weekend against Newcastle Falcons.
They encounter a team whose last away win in all competitions came in west London in October against Harlequins, with their solid form against Londoners being consolidated to last weekend.
Sharks became the first team to hold Saracens to a scoreless second half since 2018, as they came out the better of a table-topping clash to finish 35-24 and end a two-game run of losses in the Premiership.
London Irish boast the highest rate of try-scoring entering an opposition 22, crossing the whitewash with 35% of any red zone entry with the most tries scored in the opening and closing 10-minute periods (11 each) of their games.
The Exiles and Sale average the same amount of tries per 80 minutes (3.7) so far in the Gallagher Premiership season, but Irish average 10.6 more carries and Sharks average 6.1 kicks per game.
Sale’s Rob du Preez has managed the most retained kicks of any player in the league this term (19), with four of those completed attempts resulting in try assists, with teammate Jono Ross making the most dominant tackles (25).
Two of the last three contests between London Irish and Sale have ended in a draw, however, Sale have held the monopoly in the fixture over the last eight years with Irish winless in their encounters since April 2015.
The Boss- Alex Sanderson:
Alex Sanderson made a move back north midway through the 2020/21 campaign in order to take up the Director of Rugby position with Sale Sharks, guiding them to a first play-off berth since 2006 in his maiden campaign.
He has also since led the Mancunian outfit to consecutive Champions Cup quarter-finals, having been part of one of the most successful coaching tickets in the past decade as Saracens’ Forwards Coach.
Sanderson ended a 17-year association with Sarries in 2021 to take up his first lead coach role with Sale Sharks, a Club he spent six years of his playing career with.
He played over 90 times for Sharks between 1998 and 2004, making a scoring England debut against Romania in November 2001, then joining the north Londoners for a short stint before retiring owed to a back injury.
One to Watch – Joe Carpenter:
Joe Carpenter beat the most defenders (eight) and made the most clean breaks (six) in Round 19 against Saracens, his clean breaks haul the joint-most in a Premiership match this season.
Alongside the seventh-most carries (16) and second-most metres made (149), Carpenter also bagged a match-defining brace in the clash at the AJ Bell Stadium, only one of five players in the league to score more than one try in the round.
21-year-old Carpenter has scored seven tries in 15 starts this term, making 16 appearances overall in the Premiership, Heineken Champions Cup and Premiership Rugby Cup.
Across the season, he has captured the imagination of the Sharks’ fandom from the full-back position by managing the second-most metres made (896), fifth-most line breaks (17), sixth-most defenders beaten (38) and eighth-most carries (138).
The Leeds native was brought through the Yorkshire Academy and joined Sale’s own youth set-up in 2020, making his senior Club debut in the Heineken Champions Cup against La Rochelle that same year.
The supreme running threat has represented England at age-grade level alongside fellow Clubmates Tom Roebuck, Raffi Quirke and Tom Curtis.
Classic Encounter - London Irish 21-19 Sale Sharks – 8th January 2012 – Aviva Premiership:
London Irish bagged a very late 21-19 win at the Madejski Stadium over Sale Sharks back in 2012.
Fly-half Adrian Jarvis made an impactful cameo in the game's second period, taking the place of Tom Homer who at the time was the Premiership's top point scorer to slot two decisive place kicks.
Homer himself contributed five points of his own from the tee on top of scores from Bryn Evans and Topsy Ojo that took Irish to a final two-point cushion.
Nick Macleod of Sale added 14 of Sharks' points on the afternoon, alongside full-back Rob Miller's early five-pointer, but it wasn't to be for Steve Diamond's Mancunian side.
Tries: Bryn Evans, Topsy Ojo
Conversions: Tom Homer
Penalties: Tom Homer, Adrian Jarvis (2)
Tries: Rob Miller
Conversion: Nick Macleod
Penalties: Nick Macleod (4)
Sale Sharks full-back Joe Carpenter analysed his side’s performance in wake of a 35-24 win over Saracens.
"We know Sarries fight for the full 80 minutes, we knew it wouldn't be easy, they came out firing,” he stated.
"We turned it round, we had a chat, the leaders came together and put the boys up.
"It was a massive effort from the boys to claw down a 16-0 lead so I'm really proud of everyone.
"Scoring two in any game is fantastic but to do that against the league leaders is massive for me.
"That's seven for the season and every try is a bonus - I enjoy every single one of them."