Champions Cup: Sale Sharks to rely on character for tough Racing 92 clash

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson believes his team’s character will be important when they face up to a high powered Racing 92 side in the Champions Cup this weekend.

Sanderson’s men secured a quarter-final berth after they narrowly beat Bristol Bears 44-39 over two legs in the round of 16.


Sale turns their attention to Racing 92, who boast a strong squad including Scottish playmaker Finn Russell. However, Sanderson says his side has played some of their best rugby with the underdogs’ tag and believes that will be needed again.

“Character, fortunately for me, this team have in abundance,” Sanderson said. “Our chance to be able to show who we are in terms of our character is something that’s highly motivating.

“They’ve shown their best qualities and played some of their best rugby when they’ve had their backs against the wall and gone into a hostile environment where we’re the underdogs. It’s the same again.

“I don’t think Racing are the type of team that crumble – you don’t get them at this stage of the competition. You’ll get out of them in the 80th minute what you get out of them in the first.

“It’s down to your own resilience and resolve. Are you able to handle one of those lightning bolts they’re able to chuck, this team, when it could be against the run of play or totally out of the blue?

“How are you going to react to that? That’s the challenge for us and our ability to stay in the fight, despite what they throw at us, is going to be key and not the other way around.”

Sale has firepower of their own in England’s Manu Tuilagi, who is locked and loaded ahead of their cup tie.

“He’s well primed,” he said. “Manu’s an English-Samoan thoroughbred. It was purely conservational on Manu’s part last week, just to keep him fresh and not risk injury and make sure his loading’s up there.

“He’s better than he would have been if he’d have played last week.”

Sanderson says his team will not be distracted by the unique U Arena or the occasion they travel to France for their monstrous clash.

“There’s a necessity for them not to be distracted by that,” Sanderson said. “We’ve already mentioned and created an awareness around it. We’re going there the day before to have a look at it.

“We do already have some processes in place which will hopefully be able to centre us back to what we need to do and not get too caught up in the whole occasion.”

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