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“He epitomises us, does Sam”-Alex Sanderson on Sam Dugdale

Sale Sharks Director of Rugby Alex Sanderson has applauded the form of back-row forward Sam Dugdale, however was also quick to caveat that against the return of England star Tom Curry.

With Curry missing the whole of the season to date with a ‘car crash’ hip injury, Dugdale has established himself as Sale’s starting number seven. He has featured in all but one of Sale’s 18 Premiership games this season, and across the board has made 25 appearances this season.

Dugdale has grown week on week, however his Man of the Match performance against Saracens thrusted him into the spotlight.

Speaking to the media ahead of his side’s semi-final against Bath, Sanderson was full of praise for the Sale academy graduate.

“He epitomises our team,” Sanderson said. “He’s not the most popular of player. He doesn’t have a heap of Hollywood moments, but he has a lot of moments which are significant in games. That’s why he’s earned those Man of the Match awards. I think he’s been a part of every (wider) squad for every game we’ve had this season, which shows his resilience and robustness. He epitomises us, does Sam.”

Dugdale has quickly become on of Sale’s best defensive players this season. He made the fourth most tackles in the Premiership with 191. He was also a constant threat at the breakdown, making the second most turnovers out of any Sale player this season (13).

“I hope he get’s recognition for his efforts. He’s starting to get it because we’re talking about him,” Sanderson concluded.

Battle of the back-row: Alex Sanderson on weighing up Sam Dugdale against a returning Tom Curry

Tom and Ben Curry-Credit: IMAGO

Whilst Sanderson was quick to praise his current number seven, he faces a huge selection call in his back-row ahead of the Bath clash.

Star flanker Tom Curry has returned far earlier than expected following his hip injury, and Sanderson confirmed he was back in contention to face Bath: “Tom Curry is up for selection, which is great news.”

Curry picked up a career-threatening hip injury during the World Cup, and has not played since England’s Bronze final against Argentina.

Commenting on the selection issue surrounding Curry, Sanderson said: “This will be international intensity, international quality. I think for all the physicality and the ball-in-play play time and just the quality of players out on the pitch. It’s a lot to ask of someone who’s been out for nine or seven or eight months to step into an international game.”

Despite it being ‘a lot to ask’, Curry would undoubtedly add plenty of quality to the Sale pack. Prior to his injury, he was widely regarded as one of the best back-rowers in the world, and despite only being 25-years-old  has already won 50 England caps and featured in all three of the British and Irish Lion’s tests against South Africa in 2021.

“Tom defies logic in a lot of ways, doesn’t he?” Sanderson continued. “I think the way he’s moving has actually surprised the medics, he’s moving better than ever; that’s his commitment.”

Elsewhere on the injury front, Manu Tuilagi is also back on the training pitch and in contention for the semi-final.