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'It wasn't just getting drunk, we had little activities for them'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Sale Sharks)

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Sale boss Alex Sanderson has hailed the impact that a recent bonding session in London has had on his squad as they prepare to head to Wales on Sunday to take on the Ospreys in the opening round of the Heineken Champions Cup. Knowing his Sharks had a bye-week in the 13-team Gallagher Premiership on the weekend after their November 28 trip to Saracens, the rookie director of rugby took full advantage of the schedule to let some hair down. 

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There was a Sunday night drinking session at The Ship in Wandsworth to help the Sale squad lick the wounds of their loss to the promoted Championship champions, and the following day heralded a rat race and a visit to a winter wonderland before some time off prior to the start of their prepping for their latest Champions Cup campaign. 

Sanderson knows Sale got lucky with their timing. If their break was this week, for instance, he would shy away from planning any high jinx due to the changed outlook governing the pandemic in England. But those few late November days in London getting away from the daily cycle of professional rugby was invaluable, reckoned the director of rugby who is still serving his apprenticeship as a boss having only taken charge in Manchester last January.  

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“The feedback was very strong, that it had a really positive effect in the few days that we had in London,” explained Sanderson to RugbyPass when quizzed about the importance of non-rugby events for his rugby team. 

“Everyone wanted time off, that was the general consensus to spend with family, and we gave them some time off over the week, but I knew how important it was just to come together and get a bit loose I guess. It wasn’t just getting drunk, we had little activities and stuff for them to do which forced them into conversations in small groups and cooperation. 

“The feedback coming in from all quarters post the event, it really was worth doing and one of the best socials. I honestly believe it was money well spent. It is hard to convince (club) owners because it is intangible what you are trying to build, but it’s crucial. Even when you think you are tight (as a squad) there are always levels you can go to get deeper and strengthen those bonds and friendship, to be a stronger brotherhood, whatever you want to call it.”

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That said, Sanderson admitted Sale got lucky with their timing. “This was the first social we have been on since January. Right now, if I knew then what I know now in terms of the increasing risk of Covid and the consequences of isolation, I probably wouldn’t have done it if it was this Sunday. Honestly, I wouldn’t, but we ended up going and getting away with it because not one of us came down with Covid. We were very lucky or we have all had it. It’s one of the two, I don’t know which.”

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