TOP BAR - Fixtures

Diamond aiming to cause European upset

After recording their 200th Aviva Premiership Rugby win on Saturday, Sale Sharks’ Steve Diamond is now targeting success in Europe.

Sharks only qualified for this season’s European Champions Cup with a win over Newcastle Falcons on the final day of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season, but Diamond has backed his side to be a match for anyone at home.

His side take on Saracens, reigning Premiership and European champions, as well as French side Toulon – winners of the three previous editions of the competition.

Scarlets complete the line-up of Pool 3, with Diamond’s side travelling to Wales to open their European campaign on Saturday, October 15.

“For us to get a Champions Cup place is fantastic, we don’t have the biggest budget in the Premiership but we have a real direct way of playing, certainly in Manchester,” said the director of rugby.

“I think we have got a group which is fantastic for the club. We start away at Scarlets and we will take that one as it comes and see what we can get out of that.

“Then, obviously, anybody who knows anything about us knows we’re a very good side in Manchester, we’ve lost four games in three years there, so bring it on.

“The beauty of this competition is that you don’t have to motivate the lads, it all comes down to your concentration levels and your skill, so if we apply that at the highest level then we stand a good chance against anybody.”

And while Diamond is bullish about his side’s chances in the competition, he is under no illusions as to the reality of the situation.

“Anybody who qualifies is a serious contender and we won’t be kidding ourselves, we know that Saracens and Toulon are probably favourites to win the competition,” he added.

“But we can get some confidence going into the home game against Toulon, by hopefully getting a result against Scarlets.”

Sharks are in Europe’s premier club rugby competition for the third time in five years, and the ninth time in their history.

And Diamond admitted that regular qualification is what the club need, it they are to keep hold of their fledgling talents, and recruit big name players.

“I think anybody with any ambition wants to play in the best club competition in the world. We know the Aviva Premiership Rugby is really tough, but the next step up is the Champions Cup,” he said.

“And any player or coach who has got any ambition, or clubs that have got ambition, wants to be in it – it meant a hell of a lot for us to qualify

“When you work hard the previous season to qualify for it, you have to give it your best crack when you get it.

“People like Josh Beaumont, Mike Haley, Will Addison, our young English lads coming through, they’ve signed long-term contracts with us on the basis I can push them in the right direction and qualify each year for the Champions Cup.”

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) is the organiser of the European Rugby Champions Cup, the European Rugby Challenge Cup and the Challenge Cup Qualifying Competition. Follow all the excitement of another thrilling season of European action at www.epcrugby.com

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