Sale boss Alex Sanderson expects ‘fire and brimstone’ from Leicester in semi
Sale Sharks boss Alex Sanderson expects reigning Gallagher Premiership champions Leicester to have “steam coming out of the ears” in Sunday’s play-off clash.
Sale have not reached English rugby’s domestic showpiece final since 2006, when Jason Robinson was captain and fly-half Charlie Hodgson scored 23 points in a 45-20 demolition of the Tigers at Twickenham.
Leicester, though, are regular visitors. In the 17 years since Sale were last there, Tigers can reflect on eight appearances and five title triumphs.
But they will arrive at the AJ Bell Stadium as outsiders, having finished 10 points behind Sale during the regular Premiership season and conceding 40 points on their last league trip to Greater Manchester in December.
“I dare say they are going to be frothing at the mouth, steam coming out of the ears, fire and brimstone,” Sanderson said.
“We’ve beaten them twice (this season), and I have heard that they want to play us. If someone had beaten me twice, I would want to play them.”
Current Leicester head coach Richard Wigglesworth was the Sale scrum-half against Tigers in the 2006 final, and he is now tasked with plotting Sharks’ downfall.
“I consider him a good friend,” Sanderson added. “There is probably no-one in the Premiership who knows me better or who I know better.
“What I am going after in his team, he is probably going after in ours.”
Sale welcome back the likes of Tom Curry and Nick Schonert, but Leicester wing Chris Ashton, who avoided a ban when he appeared before disciplinary chiefs on Thursday after being sent off last weekend, has not made Tigers’ matchday 23, with four changes seeing Freddie Steward, Anthony Watson, Matt Scott and George Martin all starting.
Wigglesworth said: “Their home record is impressive – it has been a big talking point out of the club all season.
“What they want to do in the north for the game and to have only lost a couple of games in all competitions at the AJ Bell is something that they take great pride in.
“It hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for us for a long time, having not won there in more than five years.
“Being the away side in a semi-final is tough enough, but it is a challenge we are looking forward to taking on.”
Saracens are aiming for a fifth Premiership crown during the past nine seasons, and they host Northampton on Saturday.
Mark McCall’s men were beaten by Leicester in the final a year ago, edged out 15-12 by Freddie Burns’ drop-goal during the dying seconds.
“It is tough to lose any final,” Saracens and England fly-half Owen Farrell said.
“We felt like we didn’t put the best of us out on that day, and that is a credit to Leicester and what they did.
“It is up to us to make the most of it. We are excited for the semi-final.”
England international Elliot Daly will continue his comeback from injury on the Saracens’ bench, while wing James Ramm returns for Northampton and Courtney Lawes makes a Saints-record 165th Premiership start.
Northampton head coach Sam Vesty said: “They are a very good team, and it will take us playing well and playing well for long periods of time.
“I think if we do that we will win, and if we don’t or only play well in patches, then it will be tough as they are a very strong outfit.”