Champions Cup: Alex Sanderson believes English teams are hindered by lower salary cap

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Sale Sharks boss Alex Sanderson insists that the English sides are at a disadvantage in comparison to the Irish and French behemoths when it comes to the Champions Cup.

For the second successive season no team from the Premiership made it to the semi-finals of Europe’s premier club competition.

Both Leicester Tigers and Sale were comprehensively beaten by Leinster and Racing 92 respectively, raising questions about the quality of the English teams.

The salary cap currently stands at £6.4m, reduced from £7m in 2020, but will go down to £5m from the 2022/23 campaign.

Can’t sign the quality needed to compete

And asked whether the cap has had an impact on the results, Sanderson responded: “Yes of course it does because you don’t have the money to sign the quality of players needed.”

However, the Sharks boss did suggest that, despite the financial disparity, Premiership teams can find ways of being competitive.

“There’s been a difference in the salary cap forever between the French and English clubs. When Toulon used to have a £20m salary cap and the English clubs were on £5-6m and yet they managed to win,” Sanderson said.

“You can make up the gap in the salary cap through really good coaching, decent infrastructure, and culture as well. You can bridge the gap through talent, through cohesion and decent coaching.”

Sale produced a good first half in their Champions Cup quarter-final against Racing, going 10-6 up at the break, but were torn apart in the second period, eventually succumbing 41-22.

“It’s really frustrating,” Sanderson added. “I don’t think you can argue with the result. You don’t win quarter-finals by shipping 40 points.

“It wasn’t for a lack of effort. Our set-piece, and our physicality for the most part was right up there, but some of our decisions gifted them some fast ball.

“We played into their hands in the second half, and the game went away from us.”

One of the Sharks’ chief tormentors was the outstanding Scotland fly-half Finn Russell, whose creativity continually caused problems for the visitors.

Racing will face La Rochelle in the semi-finals and Russell insists that European success is their main goal.

“We are focusing on winning the Champions Cup,” said Russell. “The Top 14 is great, but after being in three finals the Champions Cup, the club are desperate to win.

“We got a good win against Sale, and we are looking forward to the semi-final.

“La Rochelle were very good against Montpellier, and they are a class team. They were finalists last year.

“They beat us just after the Six Nations 19-0 so we know how tough it is going to be next week. Obviously, the goal is to make the final, but we have to get through next week first.”

READ MORE: Racing 92 advance to semi-finals with win against Sale Sharks

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