Sale Sharks captain Magnus Lund knows when a big game is coming and in Friday’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final against high-flying French outfit Montpellier the Manchester side have exactly that.
World Cup winning coach Jake White has led the southern French team to second in the Top 14 on the back of six wins.
And Lund, who missed Sale’s 2005 Challenge Cup final win with a dead leg, is determined to get his side on song to set up a semi against either league rivals and cup holders Gloucester or Welsh team Newport Gwent Dragons.
“I think Friday will probably have the intensity of a Champions Cup quarter-final if you look at how well they are playing,” the flanker told MM.
“Montpellier are just as good as other French sides in Europe if not better, so for us it’s a massive challenge to get up for and a huge physical battle.”
Lund admitted Sale’s poor opening group game defeat to Newport was a wake-up call for the Sharks after a poor showing in Europe last season when they lost all six group fixtures.
“That (Newport defeat) gave us the kick we needed and maybe made us realise this competition is tougher than you think.
“You might have thought we were going to walk some games but it’s a tough cup and we’ve got some good victories and memories already. Hopefully we can keep that run going.”
Although not starting, South African man mountain Brian Mujati said he relished such brutal encounters because they bring the best out of him.
“As a professional how can you not get yourself ready for something like this?
“It’ll be a good challenge and I think it’s easier to play in these sort of games than perhaps against lesser teams, because you don’t want to let yourself down.”
Sale have a phenomenal home record to protect against the French giants – they are unbeaten at the AJ Bell Stadium this season – though Mujati knows from experience it counts for nothing unless they can turn form into trophies.
“At Northampton we went a whole league season perfect at home and then we lost in the semi-finals,” said the 31-year-old.
“So at the end of the day for Sale it’s about getting to the (Aviva Premiership) playoffs and taking it from there. Although that’s another story for another day. Right now we’re trying to stay in Europe.”
Sale have a fascinating double-header against a struggling Bath coming up next week as they seek to put pressure on sixth-placed Harlequins by making the most of their game in hand.
Image courtesy of BT Sport via YouTube, with thanks.