CHRIS ASHTON IS set to make return to rugby from a seven-week suspension as Sale Sharks coach Steve Diamond says they will be going fully loaded against Connacht in the Challenge Cup on Saturday.

And while out-half AJ MacGinty will miss the chance to play against the Connacht side he steered to victory in the Pro12 two seasons ago, Diamond says the clash with Connacht in the AJ Bell Stadium could be the pivotal game in the pool.

Ashton’s hopes of an England recall following his summer move home from Toulon, were all but smashed when he was sent off in a pre-season clash with Castres and picked up his latest ban.

That ban has now expired and Diamond confirmed after his side won 41-24 in Perpignan at the weekend that Ashton would be making his competitive debut for Sale Sharks on Saturday.

“Chris Ashton will be back next week, we have a few others back in the fold as well and we will be giving it everything.

With ourselves and Connacht in this group there is going to be one big battle and we need to get ourselves ready for that,” he said.

Connacht’s hopes of a rare win in England will be further challenged by Sale also having South African internationals Johan Janse van Rensburg and Faf de Klerk available.

Connacht opened their campaign with a 22-10 home win over Bordeaux-Begles but Sale top the pool after picking up a bonus point in Perpignan.

Connacht coach Andy Friend looks set to rotate his squad for the trip to Salford but Diamond make it clear he will be going full strength.

“We pride ourselves, as Connacht do, on our home record. We take this competition very seriously, the club have won it twice,” he added.

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