Sale's director of Rugby Steve Diamond believes Premiership is most competitive yet

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during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors at the AJ Bell Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Salford, United Kingdom.

Sale’s director of Rugby Steve Diamond believes the current Gallagher Premiership season is one of the most competitive yet.

The Sharks defeated Worcester 21-15 on Sunday but had to withstand an onslaught from the visitors in the second period.

Worcester are favourites for the drop this season but have shown that they can mix it with the other teams in England’s top-tier following two narrow losses.

“At half-time we weren’t swinging from the chandelier in the changing room,” said Diamond.

“We just said ‘we’ve started well, let’s make sure we put this game to bed but, if we play like we played, we’ll convert’. What Worcester did at half-time was get their a*** into gear.

“That’s how competitive it is. We made a mistake last week going to Harlequins and underestimating them and got put back on the coach with tears in our eyes, it was that embarrassing – that won’t happen again.

“With Bristol coming up and showing their resolve, the competition’s at a different level.”

Despite struggling in the second half against the Warriors, Diamond believes that they will improve once some of their star players return.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg, James O’Connor, Chris Ashton and Faf de Klerk are all currently out of action, although the latter could return sooner than expected.

De Klerk is currently with the South African national team, who are playing in the Rugby Championship, but may be back early according to the director of Rugby.

“Hopefully (he’s coming back early), that’s all I can say,” he added. “I’ve not got anything concrete but rumour is that he might be coming back earlier.

“We’ve got to weather the storm. We’ve got Van Rensburg unavailable, Ashton unavailable and O’Connor on the way back in the next three or four weeks, so we will be a totally different outfit when those lads are playing.

“We’re putting a squad together, although it might take us a bit longer than I originally thought. We don’t want to be a Blackburn Rovers of 1995 where we’re up and then down, we want to be consistent.”

Worcester boss Alan Solomons was annoyed at his team’s performance in the opening period, but the South African thought that the pressure they exerted on the stroke of half-time changed the course of the game.

Solomons said: “In a funny way, although full marks to their defence when they held us out for 38 phases, for the first time they had to work really hard.

“We held onto the ball, which we hadn’t done, and we took that into the second half. I thought that we then had our opportunities to close out the game, particularly at the end.

“Right in the beginning…there were not a massive amount of errors and they were small errors, but the consequence is that they score points from them and also end up getting field position. That was the problem.”

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England prop Joe Marler opens up about 2016 "gypsy boy" episode

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England prop Joe Marler says speaking openly with close friends enabled him to overcome the 2016 “gypsy boy” episode which tarnished his career.

The 28-year-old, who has 59 England caps, was speaking as Harlequins joined the Movember Foundation to launch a ‘Be a Man of More Words’ campaign, raising awareness for World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.

Marler was joined in a video by Quins team-mates Dave Ward, Danny Care and Mark Lambert in speaking openly about their personal experiences, with Marler reflecting on the March 2016 incident where he insulted Wales’ Samson Lee by calling him a “gypsy boy”.

“It hasn’t always been easy,” Marler said.

“My personality is I can be very outgoing, very happy, sociable, but then I can quite easily buckle under pressure, get quite low and spiral.

“I’m now in a place where I’m far more in control of my day-to-day outlook on things.

“A huge part of that was being able to talk to my friends. They’ve enabled me to be in a position now where I’m capable of coping with that.”

Marler apologised for the incident in England’s 25-21 win at Twickenham, while Lee’s interpretation was that the comments were intended as banter, rather than malicious.

The England prop was banned for two weeks and fined ยฃ20,000 after World Rugby intervened in a disciplinary case which had initially seen Marler cleared by a Six Nations panel.

The subsequent fallout and a further ban for kicking Grenoble hooker Arnaud Heguy in the head saw Marler opt out of the June 2016 tour to Australia with the blessing of England head coach Eddie Jones.

Marler responded by playing the best rugby of his career, earning a place on the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, although he served eight weeks’ worth of bans last season, missing England’s first two Six Nations matches.

Marler added: “I spent a huge amount of that time discussing things with my wife, trying to get through that, but also my close friends around me about the problems I was experiencing at the time and how I was going to get through it and move forward.

“For me, without those guys that I was able to talk to, I wouldn’t have been able to get through those tough points in my career and in my life.”

Fatherhood has given Danny Care more perspective.

Fatherhood has given Danny Care more perspective.

Care spoke how fatherhood had changed him. The scrum-half was reprimanded by then England head coach Stuart Lancaster following his December 2011 arrest for a late night incident.

“Becoming a dad, for me just put everything in perspective,” Care said.

“Everything changed for me, my whole outlook on how I was as a person. I wasn’t a bad person, but I made a few bad decisions. For me the main realisation was someone is going to be dependent on me and I want to make that person proud and do best by my child.

“Now all my decisions I make I put my family first. That’s the biggest thing for me. Being a father you have to put other people first.”

The Movember Foundation, Harlequins Foundation and Harlequins join forces to ‘Stop Men Dying too Young’. For more information head to: www.movember.com

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England's pursuit of Rugby World Cup glory to be aided by learning Japanese

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Eddie Jones is making his staff take Japanese lessons to assist England‘s pursuit of Rugby World Cup glory next year.

Forwards coach Steve Borthwick and scrum mastermind Neal Hatley are among those members of the back room team who started learning the language last week ahead of Japan 2019.

England’s World Cup campaign opens against Tonga in Sapporo on September 22 and Jones believes the tactic will have a knock-on effect for the playing squad.

“All the staff โ€“ everyone โ€“ had Japanese lessons last Tuesday. We have got another one in a couple of weeks,” Jones said.

“Steve Borthwick is quite good. He’s a bright guy and he coached Japan with me for a couple of years.

“The World Cup is about enjoying the tournament and the more you enjoy the tournament the more you can create a positive atmosphere โ€“ which is the staff’s responsibility โ€“ then the more chance you have of being successful.

“The players are going to be stressed, they are going to find heat stress, they are going to find cultural stress.

“It’s our job as a staff to create a situation where we minimise that stress as much as possible, so all the preparation we are doing now is about trying to find ways we can minimise the stress for the players.”

Jones jokes that he has been banned from using the language by his Japanese wife Hiroko.

“She doesn’t let me speak to my dog in Japanese because she says I speak such bad Japanese. Mine is very rough,” Jones said.

“I can speak and understand it well enough. I did all the training in Japanese and probably 60 per cent of the team meetings, but very rough. A bit like my English.”

It has been confirmed by Premiership Ruby chief executive Mark McCafferty that England’s 2020 summer tour โ€“ the first to take place under the new global season structure โ€“ will comprise of two Tests in Japan.

The new rugby calendar is expected to be unveiled later this month and one of the features is a reduction in Tests.

“We do think there are too many international games, we would do anyway but I think part of trying to have these discussions globally around the structure was to strike that right balance,” McCafferty said.

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