Sale Sharks fly-half Joe Ford is hopeful his side can use Saturday’s LV= Cup clash with Scarlets as a springboard for success when Aviva Premiership Rugby returns.
The Sharks and the Welsh side are both already unable to qualify for the semi-finals of this year’s tournament, having lost two of their first three games.
A crucial block of league matches follows, with Sale down in eighth but only five points behind third-placed Saracens.
And Ford believes Saturday’s game at the AJ Bell Stadium is the perfect way for his side to bounce back after three consecutive defeats.
“The Scarlets game is a way for us to build,” he said. “Obviously we’re out of the LV=Cup and Europe but we’ve got four big Premiership games afterwards to try and cement that top six spot or hopefully higher.
“It’s about momentum now so we need a win to go into the London Welsh game the week after.
“We’ve lost three on the bounce now so we need to get back to our winning ways, get that habit back.
“It’s a good opportunity, and I think there’ll be a few of the first team guys coming back into the fold as well, so with a stronger pack it’ll be a good chance for us to put a marker down.
“The Six Nations can really play to our advantage. I think this time we’ve got Leicester, Bath and Saracens, who’ll all lose some players, so it’s a great opportunity for us to pick some points up which sets up an exciting end to the season.”
Among the players away on England duty is Sale’s Danny Cipriani, whose absence looks set to give Ford more game time in the next month.
But Ford admits he is conflicted about international selection, since it is his brother George who is keeping his club-mate out of the England team.
“Ideally they’re both involved,” he said. “People say Danny’s attack is better but I think George is the best attacker in the league. Danny is a very good player so there’s not much in it.
“I speak to George every day almost, we’re really close and he’s just good to speak to, to find out how things are getting on.
“I get just as nervous when he’s playing as I do myself! The bigger the game for George, the more excited he gets.
“He’ll have done the work so he just needs to go out and do what he always does and he’ll be fine.”
The LV= Breakthrough Player Award is designed to recognise the next generation of young players. Vote for your LV= Breakthrough Player at LV.com/rugby from Thursday 12 February