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The half-time motivational chat that Sale admit they got so wrong

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ashley Western/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Sale are heading to Paris this weekend to take on Racing 92 with the painful half-time from their previous Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final still very much on their mind. It was 13 months ago when the Sharks visited France for a last-eight match in the tournament when they got their interval pep talk all wrong. 

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Alex Sanderson’s Sale side had trooped off at the Champions Cup break in Stade Marcel Deflandre still very much in contention for semi-final qualification as they trailed La Rochelle by just two points, 18-16. However, their time in the dressing room ahead of the second half wasn’t best utilised and they were comfortably beaten 45-21 after the concession of two early tries

Fresh from knocking out Bristol in the round of 16, Sale are now back in France on Sunday looking to show they have learned a hard April 2021 lesson and now have the composure to ambush Racing in their atmospheric indoor stadium in Paris

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“We have just talked about it,” admitted Sale director of rugby Sanderson when asked by RugbyPass what the learnings on how they disappeared from the contest at La Rochelle in the second half. 

“The necessity for this group of players is what they need at half-time and not what the coaches feel and we overdid that in terms of our motivation. We were over-motivated coming out after half-time and they [La Rochelle] came up with really simple moves where they identified space in the first half and scored two quick tries in the second half. 

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“It wasn’t something that we had practised or seen during the week, it was something they just came up with on the cuff because there was the space on the inside of ten off a lineout. That is something they spotted because we were so blinkered, ‘They are going to do this, they are going to do that’. In the set up we weren’t aware of the obvious thing, we were almost over-thinking the plays so there is a degree of keeping it more about the process at half-time (this time at Racing). 

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“We have already spoken about that, giving them clear, tactical direction and buffering those stress levels so that we are able to see a little bit wider, we are able to communicate and stay in the game as opposed to looking at the big screen, be thinking of the phase that happened before or be too stressed by the occasion that we are blinkered and we don’t see the obvious. It’s in and around our mentality I’d say this week.” 

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