Tomorrow marks possibly the biggest top flight #SamuraiDerby ever as Sale Sharks and Exeter Chiefs face each other at the AJ Bell Stadium as both teams look to continue their strong form into the second half of the season. Both teams are missing impact players as a result of being called up their national squads. Jack Nowell and Michele Campagnaro are currently away from Exeter whilst Sale are without Josh Beaumont; but this should not take away from what should be another great clash between the two sides.
These two members of the #SamuraiFamily met just as recently as Boxing Day down in the South-West; and at times the match provided some great passages of play. The first half was a tense affair with Thomas Waldrom and Will Chudley going over for the hosts, only to be cancelled out by Will Addison alongside some pinpoint kicking from Danny Cipriani.
Going into the second half, the visitors took the lead through Josh Beaumont but the home advantage soon took effect. Will Chudley, James Short and Tom Johnson all crossed the line for the Chiefs and Gareth Steenson, who had not been kicking his best off the tee, rediscovered his edge to take the game away from Sale.
Looking at the Aviva Premiership table, Exeter Chiefs currently find themselves just behind leaders Saracens; whilst Sale Sharks are also pushing for a European place in seventh. There may be five positions between the two sides but this does not make it a clear-cut victory for the Chiefs by any stretch. Sale Sharks are currently unbeaten in all competitions for the last nine months at the AJ Bell stadium.
Furthermore players in the squad are beginning to receive international recognition and this reinforces the development that Steve Diamond continues to instil in his squad. The Chiefs however will be their sternest test, even without Nowell, Campagnaro on international duty and Henry Slade to injury, Exeter are still an exciting outfit who under Rob Baxter have struck a balance between the power of their forwards and the finesse of their backs.
So although many eyes will be focused on Cardiff, Rome and Paris this weekend; ours will be fixed on the North-West. We’re looking forward to seeing what happens!