Sale Sharks need ‘sharpening up’ ahead of Northampton Saints clash, says new boss John Mitchell

By Ed Owen

New director of rugby John Mitchell insists his Sale Sharks side will play pressure football if they are to stay in the Aviva Premiership – starting against Northampton Saints.

Appointed this week, the ex-Golden Lions man called on the team to strengthen their defensive play and keep calm especially without possession.

The New Zealander believes the ability to sustain pressure will be key to his new side’s Aviva Premiership survival chances.

“In order to play pressure football, you’re going to be without the ball, and you can’t decide whether you’re going to be without it for 55 or 45 minutes when you cross that white line,” said the former Sale captain.

Sale go into tonight’s game sitting five points behind eleventh-placed London Irish, and betting offers suggest they are likely to remain bottom by the end of the game.

Mitchell said: “This game, as much as you strive for perfection, it’s a game of chaos, and you want to put shape back on the game by building pressure in attack and how you do it without the ball.

“At times, we’ve become frustrated and therefore leads to impatience, and it’s part of the evolution of this team – they’re going to have to sharpen up in that area.”

The Sharks – who have won their last three at home – will need to be at their best against the high-flying Saints, who currently sit fourth, two points off the lead.

But Mitchell – whose coaching CV includes a stint in charge of the famous All Blacks – is certain he can bring a winning mentality back to the Salford City Stadium.

He said: “My aim is to teach and inspire them to become winners.

“The sooner that can rub off on the team, the better, because at the end of the day, it’s not about John Mitchell or Steve Diamond, it’s about Sale Sharks sustaining the Premiership.

“As soon as people realise that within the club and the playing staff, we’ll be able to move forward.”

In team news, Cameron Shepherd starts at full back, with Johnny Leota and Richie Gray returning from international duty.

Andy Powell and Richie Vernon exchange places in the back row.  

Sale Sharks: 15.Cameron Shepherd, 14.Charlie Amesbury, 13.Johnny Leota, 12.Sam Tuitupou, 11.Mark Cueto, 10.Danny Cipriani, 9.Dwayne Peel, 1.Ross Harrison, 2.Tommy Taylor, 3.Tony Buckley, 4.Richie Gray, 5.Kearnan Myall, 6.Andy Powell, 7.David Seymour (capt.), 8.Richie Vernon

Replacements: 16.Joe Ward, 17.Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 18. Vadim Cobilas, 19.Fraser McKenzie, 20.James Gaskell, 21.Will Cliff, 22.Nick Macleod, 23.Rob Miller

Picture credit: ESPN Scrum

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