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'Half their team is shark bait, so you can't go after half a team'

By PA
(Photo by PA)

Sale boss Alex Sanderson has underlined the importance of boxing smart in Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final clash against La Rochelle. It is 15 years since the Sharks reached the last-eight of European club rugby’s blue riband event, while a semi-final appearance would be uncharted territory.

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Standing between them and achieving that aim is a team lying second in the French Top 14. Like Sale, La Rochelle have a heavyweight, intensely physical pack and are among five French teams alongside Clermont, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Racing 92 targeting a place in the final four.

Sale progressed from the first knockout round by crushing Welsh challengers Scarlets 57-14, while La Rochelle saw off Gloucester at Kingsholm. “Their abundant strengths are obvious,” Sale rugby director Sanderson said. “It is a massively different challenge to what we faced last week, and one up from what we face in the Premiership, the calibre of player and physicality that they have.

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“But I guess you have got to ask yourself is there any other team in the Premiership that is more suited to matching them physically, bar us? I don’t believe there is. You have got to do it as a collective, so if we are going to win this it is going to be a collective effort over some individual brilliance.

“It is understanding the opposition threats, nullifying those threats and then imposing your own strengths on the opposition. There is no point going in against another heavyweight and trying to slug it out. I don’t believe that’s the way. There are tactics and boxing smart here.

“It is so difficult to focus on one or two when they have got power and offload ability across the board. We have got this thing called shark bait where we look to target a few players that give teams momentum. Well, half the team is shark bait this weekend, so you can’t go after half a team.”

Whatever happens in France this weekend, it will be another important staging post for Sale. Sanderson added: “We feel like we are creating something here – it’s just that no one has been paying that much attention to us – but now they are because we are in the quarter-finals.

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It’s brilliant to be under the radar, to be honest. But you don’t want that forever, do you, because it is important the lads get some recognition for their efforts. I guess once you get to a quarter-final, no one is underappreciated or underrated because you have to be a good team to get there. For us, there is an energy and excitement about how special the occasion is on Saturday.”

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Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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