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'The magic in his feet' reason why Sale are promising to entertain

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

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Alex Sanderson is hoping that his youthful back three of Luke James, Arron Reed and Tom Roebuck can let rip at Ashton Gate and tip the outcome of the Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 clash with Bristol the way of Sale on Friday night. The Sharks became embroiled in a first leg snore-fest last Saturday with the Bears at the AJ Bell, a low frills match eventually getting won 10-9 by the visitors thanks to a late Semi Radradra try. 

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Six days on, the teams are ready to do it all again, only this time Sanderson is banking on better execution and greater ambition in their play to make the telling difference. James, the recently turned 23-year-old, is now enjoying a run as the Sale full-back, the 22-year-old Reed is showing promise on the left wing while the 21-year-old Roebuck is back from injury to fill the right wing berth. 

It’s a very different complexion from the experienced back three that Sale started the 2021/22 season with, the seasoned full-back Simon Hammersley linking up with ex-England wingers Denny Solomona and Marland Yarde as well as Scotland winger Byron McGuigan. Sanderson is excited by the potential of his young bucks and reckons a far more entertaining spectacle is guaranteed to happen at Bristol than what took place last Saturday in Manchester.

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“Through injury and other things outside the game we have lost two of our most senior back three players,” explained Sanderson when asked this week by RugbyPass about the youthfulness of his current selection in that sector of the pitch. “Up step Tom Roebuck and Arron Reed who are now regular fixtures. Tom is back fit for selection this weekend. 

“These are really exciting young players who score a lot of tries, who are good aerially and still there is a lot more to come from. Even looking at Arron’s breaks last weekend, there were a couple of opportunities where we could have scored a simple two-on-one and it’s a different game. 

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“They want to take this opportunity on this main stage to showcase what they are about at a level where only international is higher. There is only one place you can go above top European rugby so if they are excelling here then they put themselves on that radar for international selection. Surely they are? There’s two. Luke is another one,” continued the Sale boss, switching to what James now has to offer the team.

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“He stepped out of the shadow of his brother (Sam), worked tremendously hard on his high ball knowing that if he can catch it and there is a bit of space he has got the magic in his feet to make those kind of breaks, which he did again last weekend. That is exciting and I’m really excited with where we are going, where Paul Deacon is going with that, to be brave and back this young talent because we want to score tries as much as bang people in defence. 

“We have seen that since Christmas in that little run, less recently so in the last two weeks but that is not our intent… there is some good young talent in the squad and these kind of experiences are priceless. They are only going to grow through them and that is why I can almost guarantee it will be a better performance. Whether it be nervousness or mistakes or over-eagerness, they have got it out, they got that monkey off the back and this weekend, I’m sure it will be a lot more free-flowing and the shackles will be off a bit more.” 

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