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“George has been a big influence”-Alex Sanderson cites impact of George Ford for improved attack

Alex Sanderson has detailed how George Ford’s return has been a major contributing factor to Sale’s attacking transformation in recent weeks. 

England international fly-half Ford has missed a chunk of the season either through injury or through World Cup duty, however he has made a welcome return to the Sale team as they hunt a top four finish.

Speaking to the media today, Sanderson said his team have shifted their mental approach towards attack: “There’s been a shift in our mental approach to it. We’re pulling the trigger at the right times and striking faster than what we were. It’s a myriad of things really, but George has been a big influence. I think his attacking prowess over Six Nations has been markedly improved.”

He added: “What we discovered, and in talking to England, is when you’re training against a really high line-speed team all the time, you end up sitting a bit deeper back in the pocket. So we learned ways and methodologies in training to prep for what we were coming up against, not just attacking against our kind of defence. It worked really well against Exeter, and Newcastle have good line-speed as well, so similar philosophies. We have to generate quick-ball to stay on top of that.”

The Sharks had struggled going forward this season, and at one point led the Premiership despite having a negative points difference; however in their past two Premiership matches they have racked up a combined 78 points.

Another key man in the Sale attack has been Rob du Preez. The versatile back, who can play both fly-half and centre, has also hit form at the perfect time; which has earned him high praise from DoR Sanderson.

“As soon as we’ve got that bit of momentum, Rob’s that second receiver. That allows us to stay on top and to pick the space. He’s in a rich, vein-of-form. He’s the next link in the chain.”

Alex Sanderson on the breakdown

Alex Sanderson-Credit: IMAGO

Whilst he was quick to praise the influence of key backs Ford and du Preez, Sanderson detailed some extra sessions in ‘the dojo’ have also helped.

“There’s other elements,” he said. “It starts with attacking shape, tightening up our lines and getting better depth of intent when we carry. It all helps to that speed of ball as well.”

He added: “We’re doing a bit more dojo work. We’ve got a little padded cell and we’re getting extra sessions in there. We’re having real focus where the boys are taking a bit more ownership. There’s quite a lot of things that kind of add to the mix, really. It’s rewarding, it’s encouraging and it makes us less predictable.”

Sanderson and his side will be hoping these changes pay off again this weekend, as they face Newcastle Falcons.