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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

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'We have seen an exciting glimpse of what we're going to be about'

By PA
Manu Tuilagi burst through a tackle /PA

Alex Sanderson was encouraged by Sale’s attacking threat as they began their Gallagher Premiership campaign with a bonus-point 29-22 home win over Northampton.

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Gus Warr scored the only try of a low-scoring first half before a stunning six-minute second-half spell saw Sale score three tries through Sam James, Luke James and summer signing Tom O’Flaherty to put the game out of reach.

The away side did fight back to score three late tries of their own, with Tom Collins crossing for a brace and Ollie Sleightholme also dotting down.

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Much of Sale’s pre-season has been spent looking at changing their attack and Sanderson was delighted his side showcased the progress made in the opening game of the season.

He said: “We have seen an exciting glimpse of what we’re going to be about.

“There has been a shift in focus in the way we will endeavour to attack opposition teams and there was also lots of physicality in defence I thought.

“We look like we could be hard to stop this season.

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“In previous seasons we have looked under-cooked at times, but today we showed good signs of form and that’s encouraging.”

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There was more to be positive about for Sale too, with centre Manu Tuilagi returning from 16 weeks out with a knee injury and allowing his side to get over the gain line.

Sanderson added: “It is good to see Manu get that game-time under his belt.

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“Hopefully we will get a full 80 minutes out of him soon. He showed what he’s about and he’ll keep working hard.

“It is great to have him back on the field and overall there were many more positives than negatives.”

New Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson was less pleased with his side after they struggled to get a foothold in the game and found themselves 29-3 down after the hour mark.

But he was impressed by their response, with the three late scores earning Northampton a losing bonus point.

“I feel like we let too much go in the first hour of the game,” said Dowson

“We created opportunities to score, but it is frustrating we did not go on to finish off more of them.

“Overall we were not quite as efficient as I know we can be and Sale took advantage of that.

“It was looking ugly for us at 29-3 behind, but to be fair I thought the lads showed plenty of heart and commitment after that.

“There are lots of things we can look back on and work on making improvements, but it is early days and we will get better as the season progresses.”

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