Sale Sharks will hoping that their AJ Bell Stadium fortress stands firm this Saturday as Newcastle Falcons head to Manchester for the Aviva Premiership’s northern derby.
The pointless Falcons are currently propping up the bottom of the table while Sale sit seventh on 10 points, seven in arrears of Saracens.
After player rotation over the past two weeks in the European Challenge Cup, key players Danny Cipriani, Sami Tuitupou and captain Dan Braid will return to the Sharks’ starting line-up with the former quick to praise his side’s training regime.
“The way the team is shaping up and the way Deacs (attack and skills coach Paul Deacon) is helping everyone improve, we can see the improvement,” Cipriani told MM.
“The last couple of years we’ve been doing the same old thing whereas we’ve got an onus on what we’re doing now which is good.
“Forsh (defence coach Mike Forshaw) is great at what he does and even though Paul is learning parts of the game, he’s a keen student and his video analysis is some of the best I’ve seen.
“He’s very meticulous in what he does. It’s very specific and people walk away with a definite point of view thinking ‘Ah, I can actually get better if I do this, this and this’.
“I think that’s what the players here need, young players, older guys, whoever, you want to be improving as a player otherwise it becomes mundane.”
Cipriani’s last match came in the Manchester side’s defeat away to Harlequins on November 6 and the 28-year-old is looking forward to linking up with exciting young backs Sam James and Mike Haley again.
“If I can pass anything down to Jamesy or Haley I’ll do that and it’s been good to see (Mark Jennings) Jenno get a run out the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“Sam’s got all the tricks in the locker. I’ve seen him grow in training and get more confident which is brilliant.
“He went on instinct with that try (against Northampton), which shows where he is with his confidence levels and that’s exactly where we want these young players to be.
“We’ve got a lot of good young English players here which has been the focus because of the financial situation, though even if we had all the money in the world, the boys are doing really well so I couldn’t see too much change.”
The Premiership points table can be deceiving and Newcastle are not to be underestimated, Cipriani warned.
“They haven’t started well but they’re a very good team with a very good coaching setup with Dave Walder and John Wells there,” he said.
“They have a good way of slowing the ball up so we have to look after ourselves and our breakdown and make sure we’re clean on that front.
“It’ll be a good test to see where we’re at, I’m looking forward to it: we have to stick to our guns and get a victory against Newcastle.”
Director of rugby Steve Diamond insisted that his team must not relax against the Falcons given the top flight is “stiffer and harder” in 2015/16.
“The points they haven’t got, along with London Irish, belie their abilities so we can’t take them for granted,” said Diamond.
“There are a couple of games they should have won, and we’ve got to make sure we’ve got to play as best as we can to beat them.”
Despite Newcastle not managing an away win against Sale since September 2013, Diamond warned that his side mustn’t get complacent.
“The Aviva Premiership gives you the competitive edge so we’ve got to be right on the day.”
Sale Sharks: 15. Mike Haley, 14. Tom Arscott, 13. Sam James, 12. Sam Tuitupou, 11. Will Addison, 10. Danny Cipriani, 9. Chris Cusiter, 1. Ross Harrison, 2. Tommy Taylor, 3. Vadim Cobilas, 4. Bryn Evans, 5. Jonathan Mills, 6. Dan Braid (capt.), 7. Magnus Lund, 8. Josh Beaumont
Replacements: 16. Cameron Neild, 17. Eifion Lewis Roberts, 18. Brian Mujati, 19. Andrei Ostrikov, 20. TJ Ioane, 21. Peter Stringer, 22. Joe Ford, 23. Mark Jennings
Image courtesy of BT Sport via YouTube, with thanks.