Skipper Dan Braid’s importance to Sale Sharks is clear to see in their performances – and the statistics back it up.
With the former All Black in the team Sale have conceded an average of 17.5 points per game in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season, without him that number climbs to 30.
Last weekend against Wasps was a case in point with the Sharks put to the sword in Braid’s absence, the flanker suffering a knock to his knee the week before in the Sharks’ gut-wrenching last-gasp loss to Leicester Tigers.
That 41-16 defeat clearly took its toll on the Sharks as Christian Wade and Wasps ran riot at the Ricoh Arena, meaning Braid and co have slipped out of the top six to seventh in the table.
And with in-form reigning champions, and table toppers, Northampton Saints coming to town this weekend it does not get any easier for Steve Diamond’s side.
But Braid is adamant he and his teammates can set the record straight.
“This period is is critical,” he said.
“We had a good run leading up to Christmas but to lose like we did against Leicester, playing so well and then dropping off late in the game, and the very disappointing game against Wasps was disappointing.
“I think performance-wise we’ve got to get into the game, got to turn up with attitude, do everything we want to do attack-wise and I’m fairly confident if we can do that we can beat Northampton. It’s about the performance first and foremost.
“We really look forward to these games. These are the ones that you want to play in – against a top side at your home ground. We’ve got good memories of the same clash last season where we managed to tip them over, so it’s very exciting going into this weekend.”
Braid’s knee injury is unlikely to keep him out of action for the Saints clash at the AJ Bell Stadium. And the back-row forward admits his side need to get back to winning ways, and fast, if they are to retain any hopes of a top-six finish.
“We had a pretty good run to get us up there pre-Christmas and I think it shows just how tight the table is that at the top this season it is good for rugby over here that one or two losses in a row and you’re bumped back down the pecking order,” he added.
“It’s vital against a top side that you want beat them to get points out of these games.”
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