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Sale boss blames salary cap for English clubs European exit

England and Sale centre Manu Tuilagi /PA

Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson insists the drop in the Premiership salary cap makes it difficult for English clubs to compete with star-studded French sides in Europe.


After a promising first half, Sale were comprehensively beaten 41-22 by Racing 92 in Paris to end English representation in the Heineken Champions Cup at the quarter-final stage.

The Premiership salary cap is now £5million which is significantly less than the spend of some of the English clubs’ European rivals, but Sanderson believes they must try to bridge the gap through good coaching and building a strong infrastructure.

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Eben Etzebeth | Rugby Roots

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Eben Etzebeth | Rugby Roots

“Yes of course it does because you don’t have the money to sign the quality of players needed,” said Sanderson when asked if the salary cap prevents English clubs competing with French sides.

“There’s been a difference in the salary cap forever between the French and English clubs. When Toulon used to have a £20m salary cap and the English clubs were on £5-6m and yet they managed to win.

“You can make up the gap in the salary cap through really good coaching, decent infrastructure, and culture as well. You can bridge the gap through talent through cohesion and decent coaching.”

Teddy Thomas, Finn Russell, Juan Imhoff and Max Spring scored Racing’s tries, with Nolann Le Garrec and Maxime Machenaud kicking 21 points between them.



Sale scored three tries of their own courtesy of Manu Tuilagi, Akker van der Merwe and Ben Curry, with Robert Du Preez kicking seven points.

Sale led at half-time, but Racing’s firepower behind the scrum proved to be the difference.

“It’s really frustrating,” said Sanderson. “I don’t think you can argue with the result. You don’t win quarter-finals by shipping 40 points.

“It wasn’t for a lack of effort. Our set-piece, and our physicality for the most part was right up there, but some of our decisions gifted them some fast ball.



“We played into their hands in the second half, and the game went away from us.”

Racing will play last season’s beaten finalists La Rochelle in the semi-finals next weekend in Lens.

Scottish fly-half Russell insists it is a big target of the Parisian club, having been runners-up in 2016, 2018 and 2020, to win the Champions Cup for the first time in their history but is wary of the threat La Rochelle will pose in the last four.

“We are focusing on winning the Champions Cup,” said Russell. “The Top 14 is great, but after being in three finals the Champions Cup, the club are desperate to win.

“We got a good win against Sale, and we are looking forward to the semi-final.

“La Rochelle were very good against Montpellier, and they are a class team. They were finalists last year.

“They beat us just after the Six Nations 19-0 so we know how tough it is going to be next week. Obviously, the goal is to make the final, but we have to get through next week first.”


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