Diamond rallies Sale for Exeter test
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond has delivered a rallying cry to the Sharks by reminding them they can still bring a torrid season to a successful conclusion.
Exeter visit Salford City Stadium on Friday night, with both clubs looking to press claims at either end of the Aviva Premiership table. Bottom-place Sale are haunted by the prospect of relegation and need to win to close the five-point gap on London Irish in 11th, while the Chiefs are seeking to force their way into play-off contention.
Following their progression into the semi-finals of the LV= Cup - they host Saracens on March 10 with the winners of competition qualifying for the Heineken Cup - Diamond believes their season can yet prove fruitful. "As a management team we targeted the Scarlets and Wasps LV= Cup games as potential wins," Diamond said.
He added: "We've achieved that and now we have got to do the same for the next two matches starting against Exeter and then at London Welsh. We are rock bottom of the Premiership and we have got to move up the table.
"If we can reach the final of the LV= Cup and maybe finish 10th in the Premiership then suddenly the season won't look quite so bad. Exeter will be a big challenge for us. They are a very good side and well coached."
Former England wing Mark Cueto returns in the number 11 jersey for Sale, while fly-half Nick Macleod features on the bench for the first time since December following his return from injury.
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter insists the Chiefs are entering a critical phase of the season with Sale followed by fixtures against Saracens, London Welsh and Harlequins.
"These are really important games now. We want to do well in this year's Premiership," Baxter said. "We've been in the Heineken Cup this year and really enjoyed it, we'd like to be there again and that's going to depend on how well we go in the Premiership now.
"Every game is going to be very important. It's exciting entering these four games and where you could potentially go. That's how I want to approach it. I don't want us to be fretting about where the season might go, I want us to be excited about how far we can fire ourselves."
Exeter's new Fiji winger Watisoni Votu will make his Premiership debut on Friday evening. Meanwhile, In Saturday's early kick-off Gloucester travel to Northampton with both clubs seeking to climb into the top four.