Aviva Premiership: Gloucester Rugby v Sale Sharks

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

Gloucester Rugby v Sale Sharks | Friday 4 December | Kingsholm Stadium | 21:40

The sixth round of the Aviva Premiership kicks off with a tie between Gloucester Rugby and The Sale Sharks at the Kingsholm Stadium on Friday evening. Both sides will be looking to bounce back from last weekends less than impressive results and start making ascents up the Premiership table.

To Win Match 
Gloucester 7/20
Draw 22/1
Sale 24/10
Gloucester (-5.5) 9/10
Sale (+5.5) 9/10

Things are starting to look a bit dire for this Gloucester side. Another poor showing from their tight five resulted in them suffering their third loss of the season last weekend. While the form of the pack should be a major concern for Gloucester fans, their backline also looks quite uninspired. Ex-Ireland International and current head coach, David Humphries, now has a massive task on his hand trying to turn around his side's poor start to the season.

Humphries looks almost as clueless as his team do on the field when it comes to selecting the side. The Irishmen opted to start England utility back - I'm being slightly liberal with the term 'utility' here - Billy Twelvetrees at flyhalf. While I could fully understand the decision if Gloucester had no other options for the pivot role, the fact that, Welshman, James Hook, was played at inside-centre just makes no sense to me. While it's well documented that Hook's a rather erratic performer, he certainly offers a hell of a lot more than Twelvetrees at ten.

Whether Humphries sees sense or not, will only be revealed when he announces his side late on Thursday but I have a sneaky suspicion that we'll see Twelvetrees continue in the role. While the selection policy surrounding the flyhalf role is mystifying enough, the decision to leave scrumhalf, Greig Laidlaw, on the bench in favour of Willi Heinz has left me scratching my head to the point where I'm risking developing a premature bald spot. The former Canterbury Crusader is a useful enough player, but he is nowhere near as good as Laidlaw. The Scottish nine also offers a solid place goal kicking option which is something this Gloucester squad is desperately in need of.

The Sale playing contingent, who took to the field against Newcastle last Saturday, would have been kicking themselves after they let a five-point halftime lead slip against the competition's cellar - dwellers. A fine first half kicking performance by the former golden boy of English rugby, Danny Cipriani, saw the Sharks head into the break with a comfortable lead. The former Melbourne Rebels man then must have misplaced his kicking boots at halftime as he missed a vital kick that would have handed his side the win late on in the second half. Instead, they had to settle for a share of the spoils with their lowly opposition.

The draw has seen Sale remain in seventh place on the log, however, with securing European football the main aim for the Sharks this season, they'll need to start stringing some results together if they are to meet that goal.

While Danny Cipriani has the ability to win a game singlehandedly, the key man for Sale may well be former Auckland Blues stalwart, Daniel Braid. The New Zealander was one of Sale's better players last week. He forms part of a formidable backrow that also contains Englishman, Magnus Lund and Samoan International, TJ Ioane. Braid will be charged with leading his fellow loosies in their quest to dominate the breakdown.

Verdict: Sale 24/10
Strangely enough, the result of this game may hinge more on the coaching staff than the playing personnel. If Humphries continues his Hamlet-like escapades - is he a mad man or is he just playing with us all - then I can certainly see Sale getting a win here. In fact, I'm going to stick my neck out, and back Sale for the win regardless of the makeup of Humphries starting XV.

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