Sale Sharks welcome Ulster Rugby in the Heineken Champions Cup on Sunday as two sides who have enjoyed strong starts to their respective domestic seasons go head-to-head.
Sale are second in the Gallagher Premiership, winning seven of their first nine games, while Ulster are fourth in the United Rugby Championship (URC) after picking up six wins from eight.
Both teams progressed to the knockout stages of last season’s Heineken Champions Cup, with Sale losing to Racing 92 in the quarter-finals and Ulster slipping to a gut-wrenching aggregate defeat to Stade Toulousain in the Round of 16.
Sale are still chasing their first Heineken Champions Cup semi-final, while Ulster lifted EPCR’s major honour in 1999 and reached the final in 2012.
The Pool B encounter at AJ Bell Stadium gets underway at 13:00 (UK & Irish time) and is available to watch on BT Sport, beIN SPORTS, SuperSport and FloRugby.
George Ford (Sale Sharks fly-half): “I think it’s probably the most hotly contested tournament you can play in. You’re playing against all the top teams in Europe and every game you play in, from the group stage. And if you’re lucky enough to make it through the group stage, the knockout stages are probably the closest to Test level you can come to.”
Ian Madigan (Ulster Rugby back): “You arrive in on the Monday of a Heineken Champions Cup week and there’s a different smell about the place. You walk out onto the training pitch, you see the European balls, you’re in different kit. The attention to detail goes up, your recovery improves. It’s just a different energy.”
- Sale Sharks accumulated more yellow cards last season than any other club, having players sin-binned six times in total.
- Sale achieved the highest rate of gainline success in last season’s Heineken Champions Cup, getting over the advantage line with 66% of their carries.
- Sale made more dominant tackle contacts in last season’s Heineken Champions Cup than any other team, finishing on 44 in total – 7% of their tackles.
- Full back Mike Lowry made more metres with ball in hand than any other player last season, 662 in total. He also beat the most defenders (30).
- John Cooney launched the most aerial bombs in the tournament last season, putting up a total of 20 high kicks. He also made the most box kicks of any player (49).
- Ulster – contrary to their domestic performances – missed the highest number of tackles in the Heineken Champions Cup last season, slipping off 136 in total.
- Accurate and clever when putting boot to ball, Ulster had more kicks that were retained than any other club in the 2021/22 competition, finding a teammate 31 times in total.
- Marty Moore is in line to make his 50th tournament appearance on Sunday.