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Sale explain the 'great bit' about this week's Steve Borthwick visit

By Liam Heagney
England boss Steve Borthwick (Photo by MI News/NurPhoto)

Gallagher Premiership leaders Sale have expressed satisfaction with last Tuesday’s visit by England boss Steve Borthwick and a couple of his national team assistants.

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The English head coach met an eight-strong Sharks contingent consisting of Jonny Hill, Manu Tuilagi, Ben Curry, Tom Curry, Bevan Rodd, George Ford, Joe Carpenter and Tom Roebuck at a Manchester hotel while Richard Wigglesworth and Aled Walters went to the training ground ahead of this Sunday’s Investec Champions Cup tie against Stade Francais.

“Steve was back up north,” reported Alex Sanderson, the Sale director of rugby. “I didn’t see Steve. He was holed up at the hotel waiting for the lads to come to him, but I spoke to Richard Wigglesworth and Aled Walters who came into training camp. They were in good form, they seem like a tight bunch.”

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Rather than host mid-winter England squad mini-camps, Borthwick has instead decided to visit all 10 Premiership clubs in person and meet not only with players who would have been part of the bronze medal France 2023 campaign but also uncapped potential such as Sale youngsters Carpenter and Roebuck.

Asked about the feedback from the players who met Borthwick last Tuesday, Sanderson said: “Only positive. What Steve was speaking to them about we already had a meeting about three or four weeks ago.

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“Two areas really of focus, mainly around their X-factors and current strengths. Steve is more wanting to lean into that than focus on the weaknesses, but that is coaching one-on-one nowadays, isn’t it?

“So when they went in there none of it was a surprise for them. All of them could reflect and give some feedback to Steve on how they thought they were getting on with those two focus areas which were aligned with our own.

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“That was the great bit about Steve and the initiative this year, that in the past they have just been given them, ‘Here are your focus points’. I’d receive them through email and then I have had to have a discussion whether or not they are aligned with our own coaching principles and focus points.

“This time round, he sat down and we discussed them. Fortunately, we play a pretty similar game plan to what I am sure England would want to adopt, so a lot of the values and the qualities that we are working with the lads on were aligned.

“So from what I hear, only positive. We are just trying to reframe it now, put it to bed so they can focus on the weekend.”

Fit-again Tuilagi will make his first appearance of this season for Sale following his recuperation from a hand fracture sustained at the Rugby World Cup.

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Sale (vs Stade, Sunday – 1pm): 15. Joe Carpenter; 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Sam James, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Tom O’Flaherty; 10. George Ford, 9. Gus Warr; 1. Si McIntyre, 2. Tommy Taylor, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Ben Bamber, 5. Jonny Hill, 6. Sam Dugdale, 7. Ben Curry (capt), 8. Dan du Preez.? Reps: 16. Agustin Creevy, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Asher Opoku-Fordjour, 19. Cobus Wiese, 20. Josh Beaumont, 21. Raffi Quirke, 22. Tom Curtis, 23. Connor Doherty.

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