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Sale chief defends Peter Stringer selection

Published 21/10/2016

Peter Stringer flew back after Anthony Foley's funeral to play for Sale
Peter Stringer flew back after Anthony Foley's funeral to play for Sale

Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond defended the decision to play Peter Stringer for the full match in defeat to French giants Toulon on the same day that the former Ireland scrum-half attended Anthony Foley's funeral.

Foley and Stringer were close, having played alongside one another for Ireland and Munster at number eight and nine respectively.

The funeral of Munster head coach Foley, who died suddenly on Sunday, took place today in County Clare. Stringer was flown to and from the event by a private jet laid on by Sale owner Brian Kennedy.

The 38-year-old Stringer was also returning from a bicep injury and played throughout the 15-5 European Champions Cup loss, Sale's 13th straight setback in Europe's premium competition.

Asked if there was any debate about Stringer playing, Diamond said: "No, no debate.

"When he realised the funeral was today the club owner flew him out and flew him back. Strings wanted to play and was selected on merit and played really well."

Stringer could do little to prevent Toulon, European kings in 2013, 2014 and 2015, from surging into a 15-0 lead after 11 minutes.

With recalled Sale flanker Magnus Lund sin-binned early on for a possibly late and certainly no-arm tackle on Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Charles Ollivon and Leigh Halfpenny took advantage with tries.

Paolo Odogwu pulled a try back on 32 minutes, when the Sharks had a man over with Toulon captain Duane Vermeulen yellow-carded, but there was no further score.

On Lund's yellow, Diamond said: "They've got three sets of eyes on him so whether he's done for no hands or late or whichever, we can't give penalties away like that week in, week out because you're going to get yellow cards.

"When you go down to 14 men teams can punish you, certainly teams like Toulon."

Sale had a period of concerted pressure in the final quarter and three times kicked penalties to the corner, but to no avail.

The Sharks could have gone for the posts to secure a losing bonus point but, having lost at the Scarlets last weekend, needed victory to have a realistic chance of progression.

Diamond added: "I suppose we could have kicked the penalty in front of the posts but if we could have gone over from one of those drives, it would have been an interesting last 10 minutes.

"That was our decision, to go for those corners, and probably the right thing to do."

Toulon head coach Diego Dominguez, the former Italy fly-half, praised his superstars' strong start at the AJ Bell Stadium.

"The difference was our first 20 minutes, we were very strong. That was the difference," he said.

Dominguez defended Vermeulen after the skipper saw yellow for tripping Sam James when the fly-half had kicked through.

"The yellow card was not voluntary. It was a reflex. Not on purpose. It was a yellow card but it wasn't on purpose," he added.

Asked if Lund's yellow was legitimate, he replied: "Yes. You always have to respect the decision of the referee."

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