Sale Sharks will be looking to extend their recent good form against the league leaders Northampton on Saturday at the AJ Bell stadium. In an exclusive interview with star player and fly half Danny Cipriani you get a sense there is a really good feeling amongst the playing squad and the club in general.
With Northampton having the one of the best defences and scoring strike rates in the Aviva Premiership it makes them formidable opposition to the Sharks and leaves the Sharks as under dogs in the tie. A relaxed Cipriani stated that the team don't mind the under dogs title and are fully focused on the game and are looking to raise their performance against a quality outfit.
Having played the league leaders earlier in the season, the Sharks were subjected to a 33-14 defeat. This isn't something that phases Cipriani or the rest of the squad as they come off the back of some recent good performances. In preparation for the game, Cipriani gives us an insight into the squads preparation and objectives for the game, "We have done a lot of analysis and homework on them and the focus will be on counteracting the opposition strike runners and maintaining the teams impressive defensive record". Just through talking to Danny, you sense that the squad are really up for this weekend's tie and know the enormity of the contest ... "Saturday is going to be a proper battle, war of attrition and an old school rugby game".
This is probably the biggest game the Sharks have prepared for this season and they are keen to impress the home fans and give them a performance to be proud of and repay them for their valuable support throughout the season. The fact the games is at the AJ Bell stadium is a huge positive for the players as they have only lost ... at home this season. Praising the fans he declared "when you're at Sale, it's like having a 16th man. Their loud, vocal and they love their rugby in this area of the country".
To think that this time last year the Sharks were in a relegation battle, the contrast is enormous. Currently 6th in the league and in a European quarter final Cipriani states that the turnaround in fortunes can be attributed to a fantastic preseason where "the team prepared better and smarter, which is ultimately paying dividends throughout this year".
Despite being heavily linked with a return to the England squad, Danny's main focus remains on the Sharks. "I have just got to continue with my consistency and my performances". However, it's clear to see that there is a real desire for him to return to Stuart Lancaster's squad and add to his 7 Caps "my ultimate goal and my aim is to put on an England shirt again and it's given me the inspiration to keep going and driving on for the rest of the season".
Following his first season at the club, Danny has settled into the club and squad well and his performances this term suggest he is really enjoying his rugby in the North West. "I have worked hard this year just to make sure I keep my head down and keep doing what I have been doing, I think everyone has seen the real me this year, more than ever". The fans and his fellow team mates will certainly be hoping that Danny Cipriani does the business this Saturday!
Despite the talk of the season so far and a potential return to the England fold, for now Danny is looking forward to this weekend's game and hopefully helping the Sharks progress further.
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