Sale Sharks have only beaten Newcastle Falcons once in their last 20 visits to Tyneside but they won’t get a better opportunity to improve that record against their horribly out-of-form hosts.
The Falcons have lost their last five games in the Aviva Premiership to leave them only two places above division whipping boys Worcester.
Successive December wins over Italian minnows Calvisano in the Amlin Cup provided scant consolation to fans who have had to endure a sequence where their team failed to score a try in four league games.
They at least arrested that offensive malaise last time out at home to London Wasps but were still beaten convincingly and go into their first match of the New Year in dire need of some confidence.
The Sharks don’t look likely to provide it, however, with Steve Diamond’s side winning two games in December, including a morale-boosting thumping of Oyannax in the Amlin Cup and a comprehensive victory over London Irish in the league.
Although they failed to secure the hat-trick away to Leicester Tigers in their last match, the manner of the defeat will be encouraging as they responded from trailing 20-6 at half-time to go down by only seven points.
That form alone is much better than anything the home side have been able to offer their supporters since the autumn and they will be relying on new recruit Sinoti Sinoti to make a difference.
The Samoan international winger arrived in Newcastle last weekend and head coach Peter Russell will be desperate for his new acquisition to become the catalyst for a turnaround in some attacking performances that have been visibly bereft of any belief.
Mike Blair, Danny Barnes and Adam Powell have all been called in to transform the backline with Barnes and Powell forming a new centre partnership, however, a lot has to be taken on faith that simply a change of personnel will solve the scoring dilemma that has clearly become a deep rooted issue.
Diamond has also made changes but none enforced as the team welcome back Danny Cipriani from the flu that kept him out of the game against the Tigers, while Jonny Leota returns to combine once more with Sammy Tuitupou in the centres.
The Sharks have struggled against the Falcons wherever they have played and especially at Kingston Park, however, that should not deter punters from investing at 8/13. The home side are in disarray going forward at present and have to be opposed as despite ringing the changes, it is the team’s mentality that is in real need of overhaul.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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