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The players set to profit from Wales' new gameplan

With the Pivac era now a distant memory, Warren Gatland has a rich seam of talent to select from in the Six Nations

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'I was up all night, 2, 4, 5am because of the excitement'

By Chris Jones
Saracens v Sale – Gallagher Premiership – StoneX Stadium

Alex Sanderson has told his Sale Sharks players to enjoy their position as England’s form team in the Heineken Champions Cup and accept they can no longer “fly under the radar” as they prepare to face former champions Ulster at the AJ Bell Stadium.

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Sanderson, whose players fell at the Cup quarter-finals last season at Racing 92 after losing to La Rochelle at the same stage a year earlier, said: “The Heineken Champions Cup is the best Cup in the world. I think we are in a place where we feel we can push on and I don’t think we are under the radar having been the most successful English team over the last two seasons. It puts a bit of a target on your head and we have to own it and embrace it with ambitions to go further.

“You are competing against the best teams in the best stadiums and that is mega. There is still a feeling of unfulfilled potential in this group and we start with Ulster at home and Toulouse away and we are excited about the increasing levels of intensity.

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“We have been going well but so have Ulster and they play some decent exciting rugby and they are going to step it up after losing to Leinster and you will see a better side against us.

“The South African teams coming in will increase standards and if you see them in the knockout stages it will be an international game without the anthems. I couldn’t sleep this week after showing the players videos of our European matches and I was up all night, 2, 4, 5 because of the excitement.
That gives you an idea of how we are feeling. It is those moments the lads remember and I am not saying we are going to win the cup but that is the endeavour.

“It is a sabbatical from the Premiership and re-energises players coming back from the internationals where they feel they should have got better results.”

Sanderson is confident George Ford, the England outside-half who suffered a serious ankle injury helping Leicester win the Premiership last season, will be ready to make his debut in the “middle of January”.

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He added: “George is kicking spirals and running about and will be fully fit when he comes back. We won’t put him near a field unless he can do 80 minutes which he may have to do off the bench. He is bang on schedule and it was something more than just an Achilles with six months minimum and so he is
doing really well and is bouncing around.

“Tom Roebuck has an ankle injury that will keep him out for a couple of weeks but we are stronger than we have been this season. The England boys are in good shape heading into this middle phase is probably the most important part of the season. We have a clear understanding of what we are going for and I haven’t seen any hangover after the last five weeks.”

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