Goode believes Ford arrival can aid Sharks quest for EPCR Champions Cup ambitions

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Rugby Union - Newcastle Falcons v Leicester Tigers - Aviva Premiership - Kingston Park - 12/2/16

Newcastle's Andy Goode

Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith

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Andy Goode is convinced England international George Ford will prove a highly influential addition for Sale Sharks

Former England international Andy Goode believes Sale Sharks have a tough EPCR Champions Cup test in Pool B but that the arrival of George Ford will be a welcome boost to their European ambitions, writes Josh Graham.

Sale reached the EPCR Champions Cup quarter-finals last season, before they were beaten by Racing 92, and they face the daunting prospect of taking on five-time champions Toulouse plus travelling to Belfast to play Ulster Rugby this time around.

With the instrumental South African scrum-half Faf de Klerk out the exit door this summer, Sharks supporters will be hoping Premiership-winning fly-half George Ford can fill the void in the half-back area.

And Goode is convinced the 84-cap England international will prove a highly influential addition.

He said: “They’ve lost Faf de Klerk who’s been their lynchpin and their talisman for the last couple of years at scrum-half.

“But they’ve signed George Ford who’s tactically one of the best fly-halfs in the world, playing on the front foot, and his kicking game’s second to none.

“He hasn’t had much success at European level in terms of the Champions Cup but I’m sure he’ll add a huge amount to Sale who’ve been there or thereabouts over the last few years, trying to qualify for the knockout stages.

“That’s their next step in their evolution under Alex Sanderson and George Ford’s experience will certainly help them on their way to that.”

Sale are joined in Pool B by European heavyweights such as Toulouse and Ulster, and Goode believes it will be a tough test for the side that finished sixth in the Premiership last term.

“They’ve not got it easy, have they?” added Goode. “Toulouse are a powerhouse of Europe, obviously they won it a couple of years ago.

“They’re littered with French internationals who’ve won the Grand Slam recently. Dupont, who’s the best scrum-half in the world is playing there as well.

“With Ulster, there’s no tougher test really apart from perhaps coming to Leinster: Ulster are a brilliant side there.

“Sale will find it tough but they’re a big physical team that will test two teams that like to throw the ball around a bit in Ulster and Toulouse.”

Former Irish and Lions international Rob Kearney agreed with Goode’s assessment that Pool B presents dangerous waters for Sharks.

He said: “It’s not an easy group by any means.

“Ravenhill is a very difficult place to go and win. The chances are it’s going to be in the depths of winter, it’ll probably be rain, wind and all the usual elements that you’d expect from Ireland and Belfast.”

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) is the tournament organiser for the Heineken Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup, featuring the very best club rugby teams from England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales and – for the first time from the 2022/23 season – South Africa.

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