Sale Shark’s Dan Braid impressed by standard of Premiership rugby ahead of vital Leicester Tigers test

By James Scott

Sale Sharks’ Dan Braid championed the standard of rugby in the Aviva Premiership ahead of their clash with Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.

The New Zealander signed a two-year deal last week after a series of man-of-the-match performances in Sale’s recent upturn in fortunes, as they bid to escape relegation.

The Sharks face the formidable challenge of an away tie against nine-time Premiership champions Leicester, but Braid is revelling in the climate of English rugby.

“I’m been very impressed with the standard of the rugby so far,” said Braid.

“There’s different focuses than Super Rugby, maybe not quite as fast, but definitely the physicality and the scrummaging is a lot longer – all little adjustments I’ve had to make.

“But the level of the player’s skill and the teams that we’ve come up against is very impressive.

“Some of the attacking, particularly against Harlequins, and the way they attack – that’s Super Rugby standard and it’s great to be part of really good games.”

Sale won their last four games prior to Friday’s home defeat to Harlequins, and face a Leicester side smarting from back-to-back league losses.

But the Sharks have not beaten Leicester since 2009, and Braid insisted Sale need to be at the top of their game to turn their season around.

“If we’re to stay up, it’s a process of doing the right things in our game,” said the All Black. “We need to target those crucial home games, but we want to win every game.

“There’s a few we want to target, and we’ll do that, but we are not worrying about relegation.

“We need to get out there and play our game and not be conservative, and we’ll be fine.

“When you’re on losing streak, you become conservative and you don’t back yourself, and not play what’s in front of you well enough, but now we’re playing with more confidence.”

The latest player to commit his future to the Sharks is scrum-half Will Cliff, who expressed his joy at penning a new deal this week.

“I’m delighted to be staying – hopefully we can keep the majority of the squad and we’ll be fighting tooth and nail to ensure we stay up,” said Cliff.

Director of rugby Steve Diamond applauded the contribution of the Macclesfield-born scrum-half, who misses the Leicester game through injury.

“Will has had his best season at the club and he’s done really well for us,” said Diamond.

“He took an unfortunate knock in training but he’s a local lad who never lets the team down and the fact he signed a new deal is brilliant for us.”

The Sharks are without regular wingers Mark Cueto and Charlie Amesbury after they sustained knocks against Harlequins, and Cilian Wilis comes in for Cliff.

Former England international Danny Cipriani drops to the bench and is joined by Richie Gray, who temporarily returns from Six Nations duty with Scotland.

Line-up: Cameron Shepherd; Tom Brady, Jonny Leota, Sammy Tuitupou, Will Addison; Nick Macleod, Cillian Willis; Ross Harrison, Marc Jones, Henry Thomas, James Gaskell, Fraser McKenzie, Dan Braid, David Seymour (Captain), Richie Vernon

Replacements: Tommy Taylor, Alasdair Dickinson, Tony Buckley, Richie Gray, Andy Powell, Nathan Fowles, Danny Cipriani, Jordan Davies

Image courtesy of Sale Sharks, via YouTube, with thanks

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