Sale Sharks endured a tough festive period after a last-gasp defeat against Leicester and last week’s 41-16 demolition by Wasps saw them slip out of the top six.
There is no let up for Sharks as they welcome reigning champions and table-toppers Northampton tomorrow who are on a seven-game winning streak and six points clear of the chasing pack.
However director of rugby Steve Diamond believes his team has what it takes to upset the odds and avoid a third straight league defeat, something that hasn’t happened since December 2012.
He said: “You’ve got the top side playing the seventh side. The whole team has to put a performance in against Northampton and we know how formidable they are.
“They’re definitely the best side over the last three years and everybody wants to play against the top sides.”
Despite only winning one of seven previous meetings between the two sides Sale can take heart from their home performances, having managed to score at least one try in all 28 Aviva Premiership matches at the AJ Bell.
“We didn’t deserve to get anything last week but we now need to ensure that we get something from the Northampton game.
“We beat them at home last year and we did that by having a good set piece and a good defence. After the weekend, we’ve got a lot of work to do to achieve a result.”
Skipper Dan Braid, who picked up an injury in the 32-30 loss to the Tigers, hopes his side can respond against Saints and regain their pre-Christmas position in the top four.
He said: “We really look forward to these games. These are the ones that you want to play in – against a top side at your home ground.
“I think performance-wise we’ve got to get into the game, got to turn up with attitude, do everything we want to do attack-wise and I’m fairly confident if we can do that we can beat Northampton. It’s about the performance first and foremost.
“We’ve got good memories of the same clash last season where we managed to tip them over, so it’s very exciting going into this weekend.”
Sale are a different prospect with the former All Black in the team, conceding an average of 17.5 points per game in Aviva Premiership this season whereas without him that number climbs to 30.
He added: “It shows just how tight the table is at the top this season that one or two losses in a row and you’re bumped back down the pecking order.
“It’s vital against a top side that you want beat them to get points out of these games.”
Team: Mike Haley, Will Addison, Jonny Leota, Sammy Tuitupou, Mark Cueto, Danny Cipriani, Chris Cusiter, Eifion Lewis-Roberts, Marc Jones, Vadim Cobilas, Jonathan Mills, Nathan Hines, Dan Braid (captain), Magnus Lund, Josh Beaumont
Replacements: Cameron Neild, Alberto de Marchi, Ross Harrison, TJ Ioane, David Seymour, Will Cliff, Nick Macleod, Tom Arscott
Main image courtesy of Sale Sharks via YouTube, with thanks.