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'Chucking a few grenades': Harlequins hit back after Sanderson labels them 'ungracious'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Harlequins assistant Adam Jones has responded to an explosive claim by Sale boss Alex Sanderson that they were ungracious winners when they defeated the Sharks in London 15 weeks ago. The ex-Saracens assistant was left annoyed in the aftermath of the 24-12 Gallagher Premiership loss and he made a point of highlighting his dissatisfaction at his weekly media session ahead of this Friday’s rematch in Manchester.


“I don’t want to make it personal,” said Sanderson ahead of a game that will see the club that is third on the Premiership table ahead of the semi-finals play host to the fourth-placed side. “Maybe it’s because I have been a London rival for so many years and have been at the wrong end of a couple of results, they are a side that lets you know it when they do win. They are not very gracious in victory. It felt like that down there and it’s always nice to inject a bit of animosity in that North vs South divide.”

Asked by RugbyPass had Harlequins picked up on Sanderson’s incendiary comments, assistant Jones said: “We did. I think he was also implying what he had been like with Saracens. We celebrate when Quins beat Sarries because not many teams beat them and it’s a London derby. Look, there was a big rivalry between us. He was Saracens through and through as well but he’s a good bloke, Al. I’m sure he was just chucking a few grenades out there to see what comes back.

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“Look, we beat them and sort of beat them fair and square (in February). I can’t remember the celebrations being too over the top because there was plenty of time left in the season. You want to celebrate beating teams and Sale is a big side and you want to beat them. As I said, he [Sanderson] is a good fella so I’m sure he is just trying to wind a few people up.”

The curiosity about Sanderson’s unflattering description of Harlequins is that Friday night’s encounter didn’t need any additional hype. It was always going to be a tasty affair between the two title-challenging teams who only last September faced off in the 2019/20 Premiership Cup final, a decider won by the Sharks whose social media team were criticised in the aftermath for posting a tweet about Mike Brown that he didn’t like.

“It’s like going to Pretoria to play the Springboks,” quipped Jones, the Harlequins scrum coach. “There is a lot of South African influence there. Then you have Tom Curry, Ben Curry, these guys, massive players for them. We know what it’s going to bring. Maybe it is something he [Sanderson] is using to wind his team up.

“That was a final (last September), this one we’re both through to the semi-finals so we’re both having a pat on the back. It’s a different season. Manu (Tuilagi) is back for them which is massive, a big fillip for them going towards the end of the season.


“But there is no hangover for us from the Prem Cup game, there is no hangover thinking just because we beat them at home (15 weeks ago) we can go up there and walk past them. We know what they are going to bring. When you play the All Blacks you know what they will bring, you play South Africa you know what they are going to bring, same if you play France. It’s just how to deal with it.”

Asked for his own impression on how Sanderson has coped with becoming a new Premiership director of rugby in January following a long apprenticeship as an assistant coach, Jones added: “He has been class. He inherited a good side and you can see he has brought that kind of Saracens mindset in defence, how they defend. They kick the ball a lot. They’re a good side. He is a fantastic coach, he did a great job at Saracens. 

“I’m sure he could have picked any club he wanted but he is a northern guy so it’s probably nice for him to be home. I wish him well. He has done a great job up there. He’s a good fella and a good laugh, and you see it when he does his post-match. He doesn’t mind taking the mick or having the craic with someone. He has done well up there. Good on him, but we want to go up there Friday night and beat them and get a few points on them.”

SALE: 15. Simon Hammersley; 14. Byron McGuigan, 13. Sam James, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Marland Yarde; 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Faf de Klerk; 1. Ross Harrison, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 4. Josh Beaumont (capt), 5. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Cameron Neild, 7. Ben Curry, 8. Daniel du Preez. Reps: 16. Curtis Langdon, 17. Bevan Rodd, 18. Will-Griff John, 19. Jean-Pierre du Preez, 20. Jono Ross, 21. Will Cliff, 22. Robert du Preez, 23. Rohan Janse van Rensburg.


HARLEQUINS: 15. Tyrone Green; 14. Aaron Morris, 13. Joe Marchant, 12. Ben Tapuai, 11. Oscar Beard; 10. James lang, 9. Martin Landajo; 1. Santiago Garcia Botta, 2. Joe Gray, 3. Will Collier, 4. Dino Lamb, 5. Stephan Lewies, 6. Archie White, 7. Luke Wallace, 8. Tom Lawday. Reps: 16. Elia Elia, 17. Fin Baxter, 18. Simon Kerrod, 19. Tevita Cavubati, 20. Hugh Tizard, 21. Scott Steele, 22. Will Edwards, 23. Louis Lynagh.


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