Sale boss Alex Sanderson previews huge Saracens clash and gives latest on Manu Tuilagi's future

Sale's Manu Tuilagi is being linked with a move awaySale's Manu Tuilagi is being linked with a move away
Sale's Manu Tuilagi is being linked with a move away

Sale want to get “the monkey off their back” when they host Saracens on Friday night. 

It is the first time Alex Sanderson’s men have faced the defending champions since the Premiership final last season and the Sharks head into the clash with a point to prove. Top-of-the-table Sale are looking to maintain their perfect record at home this season against a side they lost out 35-25 to in May’s Twickenham thriller. 

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And Sharks director of rugby Sanderson is fully aware of the challenge that his side faces. "If you make a mistake, however small it may be, they will punish you for it,” he said. "There's getting the monkey off your back with this game.”

The sides have not met since Sale's agonising defeat in the Premiership final in MayThe sides have not met since Sale's agonising defeat in the Premiership final in May
The sides have not met since Sale's agonising defeat in the Premiership final in May

However, having faced the favourites for the Champions Cup, Leinster, and Stade Francais over the past two weeks, there is a fresh optimism around the AJ Bell Stadium. Sanderson believes that the European fixtures have prepared his side well for their battle with the fourth-placed Sarries.

“I feel like we are in a good spot,” he said. “Only time will tell because it has got to transfer onto the game this weekend. We’ve had two great performances and one great win. The lads maintained energy and momentum going back into the Prem, which is key. We had 19-year-olds going up against British and Irish Lions who didn’t give an inch, giving us real confidence.”

Sale have been encouraged by the return of a number of players to selection, including Luke Cowan-Dickie, Gus Creevy, and Manu Tuilagi. However, the future of Tuilagi remains unknown as his contract edges closer to expiration and interest grows in the England international.

Sale's Manu Tuilagi is being linked with a move awaySale's Manu Tuilagi is being linked with a move away
Sale's Manu Tuilagi is being linked with a move away
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Sanderson said: “I still haven’t sat down with Manu, but it will probably be the start of the new year when I sit down with him. I know there are French clubs coming in for him, which is exciting for him.”

But despite the return of key players, Raffi Quirke has suffered another injury, this time a foot problem. While Sanderson’s heart goes out to his scrum-half, he sees it as an opportunity for Nye Thomas to press his claim. 

He said: “He’s got four to six weeks on the bench, starting to gain experience, and I’m quite excited for him to gain this opportunity despite it coming from someone else’s misfortune.”

He will at least have the calming influence of George Ford alongside him. The fly-half has been touted as a potential replacement as England captain following the decision by Owen Farrell to relinquish the responsibility. And Sanderson thinks that Ford would be the perfect player to next assume the role.

“He is one of the best leaders I have had the privilege of working with,” he said. “I think he is ready for any leadership role; he is a massive leader and exceptionally emotionally intelligent.”