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Sale round off a difficult week with three XV changes for Clermont

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Sale will fly out to France on Saturday for Champions Cup action the next day having made three changes to their starting XV following a difficult week that included the Gallagher Premiership club confirming they had suspended an unnamed player following his arrest last Sunday for alleged rape in Manchester.

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The Sharks also had to deal with multiple negative headlines following their league defeat at Bristol last weekend. Director of rugby Alex Sanderson was left “p****d off” that media headlines claimed he had slammed referee Wayne Barnes in the wake of the Ashton Gate loss. “I didn’t slam him. I said, ‘I couldn’t fathom’,” said an annoyed Sanderson. 

“It’s not to say he got it wrong, it’s that I didn’t understand his decisions. You take that in whatever context and you write whatever headline you did but Alex Sanderson slammed Wayne Barnes was not what I was doing.

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“I am p****d off with how it came across because it wasn’t in that context and it has been sensationalised to create some headlines. But hey, it’s your job, isn’t it?”

Sanderson didn’t take any questions at his midweek media briefing on the police arrest of one of his players, leaving it to a Sale statement later on Wednesday to deal with that delicate matter. 

It read: “Sale Sharks have been made aware of an allegation against one of its players and the subsequent arrest of that player by Greater Manchester Police on Sunday, January 9, 2022. The player in question has been suspended by Sale Sharks until further notice and is currently cooperating with police officers to assist in their investigation. As this matter is subject to a legal process there will be no further comment at this time.” 

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Away from those issues, Sale had been grappling with the uncertainty of whether their Heineken Champions Cup match this Sunday at Clermont would go ahead as scheduled due to problematic travel restrictions that insisted the Sharks must quarantine for 48 hours in France prior to the game and also undergo a round of PCR testing. It left them fearing that players who tested positive would be stranded abroad for ten days. 

In the end, revised French restrictions came into play on Friday and it cleared the way for Sale to press ahead with Saturday’s flight over with a team showing three changes from the Bristol loss – all in the backs.

Simon Hammersley (pictured) and Tom Roebuck have respectively taken the places of Luke James and Marland Yarde, while Rohan Janse van Rensburg returns at inside centre for Sam James after he failed a late fitness test and had to pull out of the Bristol match at the last minute. 

SALE (vs Clermont, Sunday)
15. Luke James; 14. Thomas Roebuck, 13. Robert du Preez, 12. Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11. Simon Hammersley; 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Will Cliff; 1. Bevan Rodd, 2. Ewan Ashman, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Jean-Luc du Preez, 5. Lood de Jager, 6. Jono Ross (capt), 7. Tom Curry,  8. Dan du Preez. Reps: 16. Tommy Taylor, 17. Simon McIntyre, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. JP du Preez, 20. Ben Curry, 21. Fergus Warr, 22. Sam James, 23. Aaron Reed

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