England prop Andrew Sheridan could make his return to action from a broken ankle this weekend - a month ahead of schedule.
Sheridan suffered the injury during England's November victory over South Africa and was expected to miss the whole RBS 6 Nations campaign.
But the 27-year-old will be on the bench for Sale's Guinness Premiership clash with London Irish at Edgeley Park on Friday if he passes a fitness test.
It is a rare piece of positive injury news for Sale, whose Premiership title defence has been cruelly undermined by an extraordinary catalogue of injuries.
The Sharks are already without England pair Jason Robinson and Magnus Lund this weekend while Rhys Jones and David Tait are on Under-20 duty and Sebastien Chabal is out with a leg injury.
But Sale were spared the loss of Mark Cueto, who might have received an England call as cover for the injured Robinson but was overlooked for Harlequins' in-form David Strettle.
Instead, Cueto will captain Sale from full-back and Lee Thomas will make his first start since breaking his arm against Newcastle on Boxing Day.
Sale's hopes of making the Premiership semi-finals suffered a major blow with defeat to Wasps last weekend.
And the Exiles head north knowing a victory would see them leapfrog the ailing champions in the table.
London Irish have their sights trained on a top six finish and boss Brian Smith said: "This is a very important game for us.
"Over the past two seasons we've collected every other scalp in the Premiership other than the Sharks and that is something we're keen to address.
"Sale were absolutely red hot when he played them earlier this season at Madejski Stadium.
"That was a tough day at the office for us and we're expecting a similar test this time."
Newcastle are determined to make amends of last weekend's late defeat to Bristol when a much-changed Wasps side arrive at Kingston Park.
The Falcons were downed by a late penalty try at the Memorial Stadium.
Newcastle have made two changes with Samoan fly-half Loki Crichton and New Zealand centre Mark Mayerhofler replacing England pair Toby Flood and Mat Tait.
Wasps have handed a debut to scrum-half Mark McMillan, a summer signing fro Leeds, while fly-half Dave Walder gets a chance against his old club.
Centres Jeremy Staunton and Fraser Waters remain as the only unchanged combination in a side featuring seven changes.
On Saturday, Premiership leaders Leicester host midlands rivals Northampton while Bristol head to Harlequins, Bath host Saracens and Worcester clash with Gloucester in a west country derby.