Sale and Harlequins will target a place in the Gallagher Premiership top three when they clash at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday. The winners will move third behind Exeter and Northampton ahead of this weekend’s league action.

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But Sale go into the game without World Cup-winning number nine Faf de Klerk, who suffered a knee injury after what Sharks described in their team announcement press release as “an off the ball challenge (against Bath) at the Rec”.

Sale say that de Klerk is expected to be back for their next Premiership game after Quins, which is against Exeter on January 25. Before then, they face Heineken Champions Cup appointments with La Rochelle and Glasgow. Will Cliff deputises for the Springboks star, while other changes following a narrow defeat at Bath include starts for prop Ross Harrison and lock Jean-Luc du Preez.

Sale rugby director Steve Diamond said: “It was disappointing to not get the result we wanted last weekend, but the lads have been working hard all week to put right the errors that cost us at Bath. It will be a great occasion at the AJ Bell in our first match of 2020, but we will need to be 100 per cent on our game to get the four points, as it is always a close encounter against Quins.”

Sale and Quins are level on 17 points, with just one point separating third-placed Gloucester from Quins, in eighth. Quins show a solitary change following their 30-30 Twickenham draw with Leicester last time out. Gabriel Ibitoye starts on the wing, with Cadan Murley moving positions into midfield as a replacement for injured Italy international Michele Campagnaro.

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Quins head of rugby Paul Gustard said: “We are looking forward to the challenge against a very strong Sale team on Friday night. It is a great place to play rugby and test yourself against a team that are exceptionally hard to break down and have attacking threats across the field.

“We were, of course, disappointed with not picking up more league points against Tigers, but we dominated the fixture and over the last five or six weeks have been like the team we aspire to be.ARL

“We will need to step up another level for the game at the AJ Bell, and it’s something we are determined and readying ourselves to do.”

– Press Association 

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