Bath Rugby ready to feel bite of resurgent Sale Sharks
Bath Rugby are expecting to face a resurgent Sale Sharks side when they travel to the Salford City Stadium on Friday night (8pm).
The Sharks are fighting for their Aviva Premiership survival and Bath head coach Gary Gold says his team will be up against it.
It is Bath’s first match since their LV= Cup semi-final heartbreak at Harlequins, who ironically went on to beat Sale in Sunday’s final.
The Sharks beat Premiership leaders Saracens in the last four and Gold says Bath will not be taking them lightly despite Sale’s lowly league standing.
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“You saw what happens with a desperate team and something which I thought was quite significant is that Sale make a cup final and six out of the eight on the bench are probably in their stating team,” said Gold.
“I think it’s very clear to see where their priority is. Their priority wasn’t in winning a cup final, it’s survival in the league.
“It’s going to be incredibly difficult. Sale on a Friday night is not easy.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge and probably a good challenge for us post the disappointment of the semi-final because it gives us an opportunity to rectify our poor performance.
“We have a massive amount of respect for them. It’s irrelevant what’s happened at the start of the season and it’s irrelevant where they are in the table.
“They are a good team, they are well coached and they are going to be bloody tough.”
With London Welsh visiting The Rec next Saturday, Bath face the Premiership’s bottom two on consecutive weekends.
But with their final three games against, Quins, Leicester Tigers and Sarries, Gold says Bath cannot look too far ahead if they want to give themselves the best possible chance of finishing in the top four.
“The fact of the matter is we are seven points off fourth and we need to win a lot more of the next five games than lose, whoever the opposition is,” said Gold.
“I think the danger is that if we start to worry about the Quins game or the Leicester game, then we’ll take our eyes off the ball.
“We are playing against a very good team on Friday night and that’s where our focus should be.”
A week without a game has eased Bath’s injury concerns and hooker Rob Webber is fit to return having missed the trip to The Stoop.
Stephen Donald and Simon Taylor are nearing full fitness but Ryan Caldwell is out for the season having undergone a hip operation.
“A week away from the intensity of a full 80 minutes of rugby is always going to help,” added Gold. “Stephen Donald is a little bit better, Michael Claassens is a lot better and Rob Webber is better, so it will help us from a bumps and bruises point of view.
“Stephen is touch and go but Simon is back training. It’s his first week back, so he probably won’t be available for selection but it’s good to see him back.
“Ryan is out until the end of the season. He was struggling with his hip and on a further investigation he has had to have hip surgery.”