Sale Sharks will hope to give retiring stalwarts Mark Cueto and Nathan Hines a rousing send-off today when the experienced pair take to the field for the last time in an attempt to salvage their season.
Sale need a bonus point win over Exeter Chiefs and for Wasps to lose at London Irish to snatch sixth place in the Premiership and secure European action next season.
However Exeter need to win themselves to keep their top four hopes alive and Hines believes the only way to get the right result is by keeping their eyes firmly on the pitch rather than outside factors.
“We just want to finish the season with a result really,” he told MM.
“In the last month or so we’ve let ourselves down as far as performances go and ultimately didn’t get the results we wanted so we’re looking to go down there and play the way we can.
“If we look at London Irish and Wasps, I think that was a little bit of our downfall a little while ago when we thought ‘Win against Irish and Harlequins and we’re good for the top six’ instead of just worrying about what we need to do.
“That’s a bit of a lesson for us really, we can’t control what they do.”
Hines has hugely enjoyed his one season at the Manchester-based club after a stellar career which included 77 caps for Scotland and winning European rugby’s top honours with Leinster in 2011.
“Everyone gets on which was a massive benefit when I arrived. That made me feel comfortable and there’s such a good culture here,” said the Australia-born forward.
“That’s probably why the likes of Mark Cueto stay so long because when you enjoy coming to work and you enjoy spending time with the blokes you play footy with then you want to hang around.
“We haven’t got the biggest squad or the most money but you can win a lot of your fair share of games with a good culture in the squad.”
Cueto, the Premiership’s leading try scorer, retires after 14 seasons of loyal service to Sale but Hines thinks the dashing winger’s departure won’t make for a poignant encounter – rather it might add a fierce determination to his teammates and the 35-year-old ex-England international.
“This happens in rugby and the guys are used to it so I don’t think that will have any bearing on the outcome of the game or motivation for the game.
“People will want to make a good account of themselves really.”
Coach Steve Diamond has named an unchanged starting lineup with both Hines and Cueto chosen.
“We’ve got a lot to play for. We’re in an unlikely position where if we win the game, and get a bonus point, against one of the top performing teams, we could, if results go our way, get into sixth spot,” said Diamond.
“Since Christmas we’ve lost two or three crucial games – whether that is the quality of the squad, or the opposition playing better than us on the day is debatable. We will be disappointed if we don’t make into the Champions Cup.”
Team: 15. Tom Arscott, 14. Tom Brady, 13. Johnny Leota, 12. Sam Tuitupou, 11. Mark Cueto, 10. Danny Cipriani, 9. Chris Cusiter, 1. Eifion Lewis Roberts, 2. Tommy Taylor, 3. Vadim Cobilas, 4. Jonathan Mills, 5. Nathan Hines, 6. Dan Braid (capt.), 7. David Seymour, 8. Josh Beaumont
Replacements: 16. Marc Jones, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Ciaran Parker, 19. Michael Paterson 20. Mark Easter, 21. Will Cliff, 22. Joe Ford, 23. Mike Haley
Image courtesy of AvivaUK via YouTube, with thanks.