'They have kicked the ball 430 times... That's 200 times more than us'
Sale boss Alex Sanderson has prepared his players for a “scrum scrap” and “maul war” against Premiership leaders Leicester that will decide what should be a ferocious contest.
Sanderson has forensically examined why Leicester under his old mate Steve Borthwick have been so successful this season and said: ”We need a maul war and a scrum scrap. They have kicked the ball 430 times we have kicked it 260 and we thought we were kick happy! That’s 200 times more than us and it is what we do in all those little battles on the back of every kick over 80 minutes will determine the outcome if we get parity in the set piece.
“All the teams that kick the best and control territory generally win the game. The gas and x-factor – taking the opportunity when it is on – separates the best teams on the scoreline. We know against Leicester that if we don’t get our defensive maul right – they have mauled 34 out of the last 40 line outs – we will get battered. They also win a lot of scrum penalties.”
With Sale down in 10th place and 19n points behind Gloucester in fourth, they cannot let the gap increase or face the prospect of not making the play-offs for a second successive season. “That is the elephant in the room:” he said.” We passed the halfway point last week against Ospreys of the season and are full aware we have to win over and over again. We have the talent to do that if we keep performing and Leicester is a huge one in terms of a statement of intent.”
Sanderson has enjoyed helping AJ McGinty and Rob du Preez create a new mid-field threat for the team and added: “AJ is going to Bristol next year but he loves to learn and get better and we are providing that and why he is still so motivated. I wasn’t aware of how good he was and there was the Rob du Preez situation as well and Eddie Jones opened my eyes about the archetypal 10-12-13.
“It’s is more about getting your best backs on the field and you generally need two first receivers one from set-piece and one in phase – one on open and one on blind to manage the game with more reality. I really believe there has been a rebirth in Rob’s career in that centre position with that run, kick pass threat like Sam James.
“You need one back who is able to play tight with the forwards, a couple who can kick-pass and the rest gas. That gives you the ability to play all types of game.”
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