The 2023/24 Premiership season has reached the fourth round of fixtures and there is a big one to take in at Salford Community Stadium this weekend as Sale host Gloucester.
Sale are sixth in the table with two wins and a loss from their first three matches, while Gloucester have the same record but are one point and a place better off due to the extra bonus point they have picked up.
With the World Cup in France done and dusted several teams will be welcoming back their international stars in the coming weeks, and there are a number of big names set to return at the Salford Community Stadium.
Sale welcome back two England internationals into their starting XV, with Bevan Rodd coming in at loosehead prop and George Ford taking his position at fly-half. Manu Tuilagi and Tom Curry are not involved.
Another player returning from the World Cup is 38-year-old Argentinian hooker Agustin Creevy, who makes his home debut, while Ben Curry returns to the matchday squad after five months out.
Gloucester have decided not to include England winger Jonny May and Argentinian trio Santi Carreras, Matias Alemanno and Mayco Vivas for the trip to Greater Manchester, with the quartet being given extra time off after their World Cup exertions.
The Cherry & Whites are also expected to be without Zach Mercer due to an ankle injury he picked up in the 24-3 defeat to Saracens last Friday, while Ruan Ackermann is yet to recover from the back issue picked up in September.
Sale -9.5 Handicap @ 5/6
After winning their opening two Premiership matches against Northampton and Leicester, Sale suffered an out-of-the-blue 43-0 thumping at the hands of Exeter last time out and they will be eager to make amends against Gloucester.
It was an uncharacteristic performance from the Sharks, who have looked solid in the early rounds of the campaign, but they are boosted by the involvement of three World Cup stars for this contest.
George Ford will provide control at fly-half while his rock-steady kicking, which was apparent on numerous occasions at the World Cup, is another positive.
Bevan Rodd and Agustin Creevy provide strength in the front row while the return of Ben Curry on the bench gives the Sharks much more depth to their matchday squad.
While Sale have opted to recall some of their leading lights, Gloucester have not followed suit and the decision to leave out Jonny May, Santi Carreras, Matias Alemanno and Mayco Vivas could be a costly one.
Given that No.8 Zach Mercer is also likely to miss out, the absence of that World Cup quartet is surprising and the Cherry & Whites could find themselves outgunned and outmuscled by Sale.
Sale First Half Winner @ 4/9
After that heavy loss to Exeter in which Sale failed to get on the scoreboard, the Sharks will be looking to make a fast start and get some points on the board early.
Sale were ahead at half-time in both of their victories this season and it would be a surprise should they not be ahead at the break once again against a Gloucester side who have been trailing after the first 40 minutes twice this term.
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