Source: Sale Sharks

Odd One Out

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Sale Sharks v Exeter Chiefs

Just one match this weekend, as Exeter Chiefs make a long journey towards the north pole to meet Sale Sharks on Sunday at the CorpAcq Stadium; kick-off 13.00. The original fixture fell foul of the weather. It’s still doing its best to upset plans.

It’s tricky to pick out one PWR club as most in need of tlc, but Sharks can make a strong case. They still trumpet their slogan “Northern Rugby Matters”, yet really they shouldn’t need to.

The world of English women’s rugby is still skewed heavily against them, while other corners of the kingdom flourish. For the sake of the game as a whole it’s essential they start to prosper.

You can see the problems in the make-up of the squad (teams listed below): plenty of impressive test players, but only the two pre-season signings, Morwenna Talling and Detysha Harper, have recently worn a white shirt, and both have suffered lengthy injuries. Sharks are heavily dependent on overseas and Celtic signings. That flies in the face of one central aim they had on claiming their place among the elite, to become a centre of excellence in the north-west. Since then, with the demise of Darlington Mowden Park, that region has swelled to embrace the whole of northern England.

High on the list of improvements to aim for will be holding on to the ball. This was a leading failure in last week’s loss to Leicester Tigers.

Exeter are keen to remind their fans that they put eleven tries on the Sharks last time round, and the hosts can expect the same amount of generosity on Sunday. Whether you’re near the top or the bottom of the table, competition remains harsh.

Chiefs now lie in third place, a whole six points behind Gloucester-Hartpury. Sharks languish eighth out of nine, only Tigers beneath them. That is the size of their challenge. At least they have games in hand.

A New Exeter

At last Chiefs can boast a host of names in the new England squad list: Maisy Allen, Brooke Bradley, Katie Buchanan, Merryn Doidge and Lizzie Hanlon. That represents an important step forward in their advance on all fronts.

In order to fulfill the ambitions of their owner, they had initially to look abroad to find players of the right quality. Over the following three years the search went on for promising youngsters coming from closer to home. Those five names are proof of the pudding. Their photos stand proudly on their social media page.

Then we recall Emily Tuttosi’s reaction to the news of likely penalties for clubs infringing qualification rules. For three years she and her fellow North Americans could enjoy life in top-flight rugby. Now their presence may be controlled by numbers instead.

Ten still seems to me a very generous total of Non-England-Qualified~Players in a weekly team squad.


Exeter Chiefs: 15 Lori Cramer 14 Claudia Macdonald 13 Merryn Doidge 12 Gabby Cantorna 11 Katie Buchanan 10 Alex Tessier 9 Brooke Bradley 1 Hope Rogers 2 Emily Tuttosi 3 DaLeaka Menin 4 Harriet Millar-Mills 5 Poppy Leith (captain) 6 Ebony Jefferies 7 Maisy Allen 8 Rachel Johnson

Bench: 16 Daisy French 17 Abby Middlebrooke 18 Lizzie Hanlon 19 Kate Smith 20 Taz Bricknell 21 Felicity Powdrell 22 Eloise hayward 23 Danielle Preece

So Tuttosi is able to start again, but a new England prospect, Hanlon, waits on the bench.

Sale Sharks: 15 Laura Perrin 14 Rachel Woosey 13 Ellen Ramsbottom 12 Katana Howard 11 Hollie Bawden 10 Mino Yamamoto 9 Mhairi Grieve 1 Anne Young 2 Niamh Swailes 3 Nick James 4 Erica Jarrell 5 Iona Antwis 6 Kay Searcy 7 Georgie Perris-Redding (captain) 8 Jasmine Hazell

Bench: 16 Molly Kelly 17 Catie Benson 18 Detysha Harper 19 Nina Moore 20 Jo Brown 21 Jess Taylor-Roberts 22 Beatrice Rigoni 23 Lauren Delany

Yes, you saw that right. Rigoni is listed at No 22

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