Sale Sharks will not settle for being also-rans in Aviva Premiership Rugby, according to Peter Stringer – and that’s why the veteran scrum-half has pushed thoughts of retirement out of his mind.
Stringer signed a fresh one-year deal at Sale last month, meaning he will continue playing at the top level well beyond his 39th birthday.
His first season with Sale has been a success, as although he is sharing game time with former Scotland international Chris Cusiter, he has played a major role in a promising season.
Sharks are the only Aviva Premiership Rugby side yet to be beaten at home in the 2015/16 campaign.
And it’s hardly outlandish to think that at six points behind the top four with a game in hand, Sale cannot force their way into the semi-final mix before the regular season comes to its conclusion.
That ambition, shared by Steve Diamond and his coaching staff, is exactly why Stringer has refused to draw the curtains on his career.
“I don’t think I’ve performed better than I thought I would, basically I’ve had an opportunity to get some game time,” he said.
“And I suppose I always knew that I could get on the pitch and have an influence on the way the game is played with a bit of tempo, bringing my knowledge of the game and what I’ve learned over the years into a setup and work with the coaches.
“I’ve worked closely with Dimes and Deacs (Paul Deacon) and Forsh (Mike Forshaw) and from what I see in training and in certain games, there’s an attitude here that is about self-belief and wanting to go on to that next level.
“Rather than settle for being a top-seven or top-six team we want to push on to better. I’ve seen that as the months have gone on, fellas mindsets have started to change whereas in previous years Sale might have been happy to have been mid-table. I think there’s a real push on this year and a belief that we can be successful.
“All this comes from confidence playing in these big games, confidence in our attacking shape, scoring a number of tries against teams in the last couple of months, that belief has given me the ambition to go on and keep playing.”
Sale have been forced into a rethink as England fly-half Danny Cipriani and hooker Tommy Taylor are set to join Wasps in the summer, though they have already moved to replace the latter by bringing in Rob Webber.
The loss of Cipriani will in particular be keenly felt but Stringer believes the foundations put in place at Sale are the most important pieces of all.
“It happens every year at each club, fellas move on, you get new guys in, so it’s about keeping your core group of players together,” Stringer added.
“I came in at the same time as Paul Deacon and he has put a new attacking structure in place which has taken a few months to settle but now everyone has bought into it it’s been working, so I think we have that core group of guys who will be here next year and we’ll add to that with a few new players.
“Right now it’s about finishing off this season as high as we can in the table, then setting a standard for ourselves week in week out.
“Anything’s possible if guys are ambitious enough and we get in guys who want to play for the club. That’s what it’s all about, getting Sale back to where they once were as Premiership champions.”