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Mark Wilson facing real battle

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The positional square-off facing England's Wilson at Sale Sharks

After a busy summer, Sale Sharks have perhaps not made the start to the Gallagher Premiership season that they would have wanted.

Steve Diamond’s side have won two games and lost two, which is not calamitous at this stage of the season. Given the stars that they are going to have at their disposal soon, many would expect them to start climbing up the table.

The star-studded back row at the AJ Bell stadium is something that has been talked about a lot over the past months, which is only going to be bolstered in the coming weeks with the return of World Rugby player of the year nominee Tom Curry and Mark Wilson from England’s Rugby World Cup campaign.

Curry is likely to slot into the number seven shirt as soon as he arrives, but Wilson will face stiff competition to earn his place in the Sale starting XV, particularly with club captain Jono Ross in the form he is in.

A stat by OptaJonny shows that Ross has made the most tackles per 80 minutes than anyone else in the Premiership, Top 14 or Pro14 this season, with almost 19 a game.

In terms of work rate, particularly in defence, there are few players more industrious that England’s Wilson, but he will not canter into this Sale team, particularly with the du Preez brothers, Dan and Jean-Luc, and Ben Curry vying for places as well. The 30-year-old always gives everything when he plays, regardless of who is playing for, but he has a new set of fans to win over this season, as he moves on loan from Newcastle Falcons.

What does benefit Wilson is his ability to play No.8 eight as well, which gives Diamond more options. Moreover, with Sale in the Champions Cup this year, and with RWC players expected to have their game time limited, squad rotation will be key.

It will be fascinating to see who ends up in Diamond’s favoured back row come the end of the season.

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The positional square-off facing England's Wilson at Sale Sharks