Sale Sharks v Stade Francais

Sale Sharks prepared for an ‘inhospitable and partisan’ Challenge Cup tie away to the Ospreys

An away trip to the Welsh side, the Ospreys, is the first task for the Sale Sharks in their quest for European glory.

Sale are looking to win their third Challenge Cup after being eliminated from the Champions Cup earlier this season.

But Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson does not believe it will not be a walk in the park.

He said: “It will be quite inhospitable and partisan, dogged, and a proper battle.

“Ospreys is one of the most difficult places to go at Bridgend away from home. It is no lesser challenge than what Leinster or the Stormers were in Dublin and Cape Town.

“They are a sticky team; every win or loss has not been by a great amount; they tend to keep teams close who are competitive.”

Yet expect a significant number of changes to the Sale starting XV that hammered Exeter Chiefs 41-5 at the weekend.

Sanderson will look to rotate his squad by bringing in a number of exciting prospects to keep the side fresh for their Premiership run-in, and he believes it is the perfect opportunity for them to stake claim to being a vital part of this final charge.

He said: “It is about having the opportunity to perform now at the standards that we have set. So, I am intrigued to see how they go. Part of me is apprehensive… like those feelings that you get stepping into the unknown, not for me but for the boys because it is different down there.

“It all helps—the feeling around the place, the exposure to big games in hostile environments, knockout rugby—it is all part of your growth, your momentum, and where you want to eventually end up as a team.

“I want to see our DNA come through… It is obvious they have talent, but to quote a very famous Welsh rugby player of the highest quality, Alun Wyn Jones, once said, ‘are they willing to do all the things that require no talent’, they are the key elements that we have been driving this week.”

However, Sale will be without the influential South African forward, Ernst Van Rhyn, for the game.

It was not an injury taken lightly by Sanderson, but he remained upbeat about the injury situation at Sale.

He said: “He is a big loss for us, but one injury out of four games, I will take that as it is an attritional game.”

Come kick-off on Saturday at 8pm Sale will be looking to ensure momentum is not halted as they look to progress to the Challenge Cup quarter-final with a victory against a stern Welsh test in the Ospreys.

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