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Challenge Cup: Sale Bring Big Guns To Galway

Challenge Cup: Sale Bring Big Guns To Galway

Sale Sharks have included eleven internationals in their line-up for tomorrow’s Challenge Cup semi-final first leg clash with 2004 semi-finalists Connacht in Galway.

Sale Sharks have included eleven internationals in their line-up for tomorrow’s Challenge Cup semi-final first leg clash with 2004 semi-finalists Connacht in Galway.

CHALLENGE CUP Semi-final, first leg: Saturday, April 2
Connacht v Sale Sharks, The Sportsground, 1.00pm (live Sky Sports 2)

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Philippe Saint-Andre’s side will boast seven England internationals – including fit-again skipper Jason Robinson and fly-half Charlie Hodgson – as well as French duo Sebastien Bruno and Sebastien Chabal, at the Sportsground.

Former Scotland scrum-half Bryan Redpath also starts, along with current Scottish back row favourite Jason White.

England captain Jason Robinson will lead the Stockport side from full-back, having made a full recovery from the torn ligament he suffered in his right thumb against Ireland in February.

The former Wigan rugby league star confirmed: “The specialist has given me the go ahead. He was satisfied that the injury I sustained playing for England had fully healed. I am really looking forward to playing in the game on Saturday.”

Meanwhile, Eric Elwood – who last week revealed he is to retire at the end of the season – will start for Connacht as they look to take a first leg lead.

With 36-year-old Elwood – set for his 169th provincial cap – and Challenge Cup top scorer Paul Warwick in reserve, Michael Bradley’s men look to have enough fire power to gain an advantage.

In all, the westerners have made two changes with John O’Sullivan returning from injury to replace Paul Neville, with John Muldoon reverting to blindside flanker. Galwegians prop Peter Bracken also starts in place of Stephen Knoop at tighthead.

On the replacements bench, Michael Swift and former Australian Sevens skipper Warwick return from spells on the sideline, while 21-year-old back row Brendan O’Connor – who missed the recent 26-21 Celtic League loss to Leinster due to his World Cup Sevens involvement – is recalled.

Hooker Bernard Jackman – a try-scorer for Sale when the sides met in the Shield three years ago – is included amongst the Connacht replacements.

Elwood, Dan McFarland and Bracken all started for the province when Sale emerged as 44-6 winners at Heywood Road in the 2001/02 season. Steph Nel’s side back then boasted future Ireland internationals Gavin Duffy and Johnny O’Connor.

* Tickets are still available for the Sportsground showdown, due to the large number of returns from Sale this week. Stand tickets have been reduced to 30 euro and are available from the Connacht Branch offices at the Sportsground, until 8.00pm tonight. (Tel: (091) 561568)

2004/05 Form: Connacht: L11-25 v Narbonne (away), W40-21 v Narbonne (home), W56-3 v Montpellier (home), L14-19 v Montpellier (away), W26-21 v Grenoble (away), W19-3 v Grenoble (home)
Sale: W33-21 v Catania (away), W50-3 v Catania (home), W33-15 v Narbonne (away), W25-10 v Narbonne (home), W34-18 v SU Agen (home), L15-17 v SU Agen (away)

Top Scorers: Connacht: Paul Warwick 91 points; Warwick 4 tries; Sale: Charlie Hodgson 51; Chris Mayor 4

Previous Meetings: Connacht 0, Sale 2
(2001/02: Connacht 30 Sale 33; Sale 44 Connacht 6)

Best Finishes: Connacht: Semi-finalists, 2003/04
Sale: Winners, 2001/02


(15) Matt Mostyn
(14) Conor McPhillips
(13) Darren Yapp
(12) Mark McHugh
(11) David Slemen
(10) Eric Elwood
(9) Chris Keane
(1) Ray Hogan
(2) John Fogarty
(3) Peter Bracken
(4) Christian Short
(5) Andrew Farley (Capt)
(6) John Muldoon
(7) Matt Lacey
(8) John O’Sullivan


(16) Bernard Jackman
(17) Dan McFarland
(18) Stephen Knoop
(19) Michael Swift
(20) Brendan O’Connor
(21) Mike Walls
(22) Paul Warwick

Sale: Jason Robinson (Capt); Mark Cueto, Chris Rhys Jones, Robert Todd, Steve Hanley; Charlie Hodgson, Bryan Redpath; Andrew Sheridan, Sebastien Bruno, Stuart Turner, Chris Jones, Dean Schofield, Jason White, Andy Titterell, Sebastien Chabal.

Replacements: Mike Hercus, Sililo Martens, Jos Baxendell, Peter Anglesea, John Carter, Barry Stewart, Fernandez Lobbe.

Referee: Christophe Berdos (France)