Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Diamond: Survival is the priority

Steve Diamond does not want the LV= Cup to be a distraction from the Aviva Premiership
Steve Diamond does not want the LV= Cup to be a distraction from the Aviva Premiership

Sale Sharks' director of rugby Steve Diamond insists their full focus is still on Aviva Premiership survival despite reaching the final of the LV= Cup.

After defeating Saracens 21-15 in Sunday's semi-final at the Salford City Stadium, the Sharks will face Harlequins at Sixways next week. Although they have the chance of winning some silverware, and potentially qualifying for the Heineken Cup, Diamond says it is not their priority.

"What's happened with London Welsh (having been deducted five points) is good fortune for us in one respect, but we just need to compound it by winning the remainder of our games," he said.

"We've got three league games at home, London Irish and Northampton away and we need to go in and finish in the Premiership on our own merits.

"The LV= Cup is good to keep the momentum. We'll play Harlequins, they're obviously throwing it about and we're looking to play, so it will bode well for a good game down at Worcester next Sunday."

Saracens' coach Paul Gustard, meanwhile, defended their decision to field a second-string side in the semi-final of a cup competition.

Despite bringing on an experienced bench, which included Matt Stevens, Charlie Hodgson and Alistair Hargreaves in the second period, it was the first half performance which cost them the game having led just 12-11 with the conditions in their favour.

Gustard said: "We rotate and these guys that started the game got us into the LV semi-final. This was their reward for getting that achievement and I think it was only right that they started the game."

Forwards coach Alex Sanderson, who was sitting next to Gustard in the post-match press conference, added: "All these young guys have been in our ranks for years now and that's the positive you can take from it, in that they can now do a job.

"They got us this far in the tournament and, upon reflection, maybe they can take us a stage further next year."

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