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

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

Sport360 staff 2018/09/10

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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Alan Solomons premiership Sale Sharks Steve Diamond Worcester