Sale Sharks forward Jonathan Mills admitted that he wanted to make sure that his side qualified for the Champions Cup again after his first taste of European rugby.
The Sharks came within seconds of a famous victory over Munster in front of a capacity AJ Bell Stadium, but were denied by Ian Keatley’s stoppage-time drop-goal.
It was a much clearer 32-point defeat a week later in Clermont, and Sale’s stuttering start has left them tenth in the Aviva Premiership, four places short of automatic European qualification.
“Our target is to try to get to where we were last year,” the 30-year-old Welshman told MM.
“We want to have another crack at Europe, especially as it doesn’t look like we’re going to go through this season.
“To have Munster at home with 10,000 there and go away to Clermont is why you play rugby and you want to be competing against the top sides, as a team and as individuals.”
It looks like Sale will not be playing any European rugby after the group stages, following defeats in their opening two games.
However the Sale squad have taken as many positives as negatives from the fixtures and the mood in the camp is still high.
“I think the Munster game was our best performance of the season so far,” said Mills.
“Against Clermont for 50 minutes we were competitive. They’re a quality outfit, but obviously there’s a lot of stuff we can improve on.
“It’s just a matter of us looking after ourselves, and if we can improve what we do the results will come.”
After the first block of European fixtures, Sale will now host the London Wasps before travelling to play the Leicester Tigers in the LV= Cup.
“It’ll be good to get back to domestic rugby,” said Mills, briefly interrupted by winger Tom Arscott, who is the Aviva Premiership’s top try-scorer this season, licking his elbow.
“We’ll have a crack at Wasps, and they’ve got a few old Sale boys there.
“Hopefully Tom will get a run out, and he needs to try and score a few more tries at the moment. We’ll keep working on our own game and move forward.”
The jovial mood around the Carrington training ground remains in spite of just two Premiership wins so far this season.
“It’s tough to go away to Saracens and Northampton but we could have turned Bath over at home, and not many teams get results against them,” said Mills.
“Those three are going to be in the top four this year so it’s not been an easy start, but that Munster performance set the standard.
“There’s no panic buttons being pressed here. Tenth isn’t where we want to be, but if we hit that level week in, week out, we’ll start climbing the league no problem.”
Sale Sharks take on the London Wasps in the LV= Cup at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday November 15 kicking off at 2pm.
Image courtesy of Sale Sharks via youtube, with thanks