Sale Sharks may face possible punishment from Premiership Rugby after fielding a weakened but all-English side against Harlequins this Saturday. The Sharks currently sit below the required English Qualified Player (EQP) average of 14 players per 22 for the season, with each club rewarded with £80,000 at the end of the season if they make this figure.
Before Round 22, each club’s average reads like this:
Harlequins 19.42, Gloucester 17.33, Worcester 16.73, Exeter 16.55, Bath 15.75, Saracens 15.23, Northampton 15.10, Newcastle 15, Irish 14.73, Leicester 14.08, Wasps 14.08, Sale 13.33
As a result, Sale have left out many of their best performers this season before facing the league leaders, including number 8 Andy Powell, scrum-half Dwayne Peel and joint top points scorer in the league Nick MacLeod, ruling the him out of picking up the Golden Boot at the end of the season. The move also could have repercussions for the top four, with leaders Harlequins arguably facing an easier task than if Sale were including their foreign stars, as a result leaving little doubt that they will win a home semi-final in the playoffs.
The move is being seen as a gamble by some Sale fans with their Heineken Cup spot for next season not yet 100% guaranteed. A heavy defeat to Harlequins plus a Bath bonus point win at Welford Road may seem unlikely, but the club will be left embarrassed if they fail to get the place. What’s more, the club could face either a Premiership Rugby fine that would cancel out their £80,000 payment from the RFU, or even a points deduction which would threaten their Heineken Cup spot.
What do you make of Sale’s move? Is it the right decision in what will be the final game at Edgeley Park after 9 years? Let us know.
Sale Sharks: 15.Rob Miller, 14.Tom Brady, 13.Will Addison, 12.Luther Burrell, 11.Mark Cueto, 10.Tommy Bell, 9.Scott Mathie, 1.Lee Imiolek, 2.Marc Jones, 3.Henry Thomas, 4.Kearnan Myall, 5.Tom Holmes, 6.Will Bordill, 7.David Seymour (capt.), 8.Mark Easter.
Replacements: 16.Tommy Taylor, 17. Ross Harrison, 18.Joe Ward, 19.Billy Emerson, 20.Jordan Davies, 21.Will Cliff, 22.Iain Thornley, 23.Charlie Amesbury.