Jack Bates is set to become the second-youngest player to start a game for Bristol in the top-flight since leagues were introduced in 1987. The homegrown winger – at 19 years and 95 days – is one of 13 changes as the Bears visit Sale Sharks on Saturday in round 17 of the restarted 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership.

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Only Piers O’Conor and Ed Holmes remain from Tuesday evening’s defeat to Exeter as the Bears select nine Bristolians in the squad and ten academy graduates. One of those graduates James Dun is also set for his Premiership debut, while fellow Bristolian Charlie Powell could also make his maiden Premiership outing from the replacements bench.

Tiff Eden makes his first Premiership start for the club, while there is also a first outing for Jake Heenan since the rugby restart. Short-term arrivals Peter McCabe and Kieron Assiratti are listed among the replacements and could make club debuts, while Mitch Eadie might make his first appearance since returning to his hometown club from Northampton Saints.

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Delighted to have included Bates and multiple other changes, Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam said: “Facing Sale away is one of the toughest tests on the Premiership calendar, so if there was ever a time to channel all the excitement and energy of the challenge into teamwork, this is it. Thirteen of the matchday squad are aged 23 and under and we’re proud to select ten academy graduates and nine Bristolians in the matchday squad. This is credit to the great work being done in our Bears academy programme.”

World Cup finalists Tom Curry, Faf de Klerk and Manu Tuilagi make their return for Sale who make six changes to their matchday squad following Tuesday’s win at Wasps. “Pat has assembled a brilliant squad at Bristol and they have shown their quality over the season,” said Sale boss Steve Diamond. “They are very similar to us on the squad front. 

“They have two strong teams like ourselves so whoever they send up to the AJ Bell this weekend we will be expecting it to be a fierce encounter. If we can keep our discipline high and our errors low as they were on Tuesday night, we should see a fantastic game this weekend. A real top-four encounter.”

SALE: 15. Luke James; 14. Denny Solomona, 13. Sam James, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Marland Yarde; 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Faf De Klerk; 1. Ross Harrison, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 4. Jean-Luc du Preez, 5. Lood de Jager, 6. Tom Curry 7. Ben Curry (capt.), 8. Daniel du Preez. Reps: 16. Curtis Langdon, 17. Valerey Morozov, 18. Will-Griff John, 19. Matt Postlethwaite, 20. Jono Ross, 21. Will Cliff, 22. Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23. Arron Reed.

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BRISTOL: 15. Max Malins; 14. Alapati Leiua, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Siale Piutau (capt), 11. Jack Bates; 10. Tiff Eden, 9. Andy Uren; 1. Jake Woolmore, 2. Will Capon, 3. Yann Thomas, 4. Ed Holmes, 5. Joe Joyce, 6. James Dun, 7. Jake Heenan, 8. Ben Earl. Reps: 16. George Kloska, 17. Peter McCabe, 18. Kieron Assiratti, 19. John Hawkins, 20. Mitch Eadie, 21. Harry Randall, 22. Ioan Lloyd, 23. Charlie Powell.

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