Di­a­mond can’t wait to pair up new sign­ings

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - RUGBY UNION

STEVE Di­a­mond is ex­cited about the prospect of Sale’s James O’Con­nor link­ing up for the first time with Faf de Klerk in tonight’s open­ing Euro­pean Chal­lenge Cup tie against Toulouse at the AJ Bell Sta­dium (8pm).

A sum­mer an­kle op­er­a­tion has meant Aus­tralian fly-half O’Con­nor, who joined Sale from Toulon in the sum­mer, has yet to make his full de­but for the club.

How­ever, after mak­ing two ap­pear­ances from the re­place­ments’ bench, O’Con­nor will start for the first time at fly-half for the visit of Toulouse, where he will form a dy­namic-look­ing half-back part­ner­ship with South African scrum-half De Klerk.

It’s a prospect that Sale fans have been look­ing for­ward to ever since the duo joined the club in June, and Sharks di­rec­tor of rugby Di­a­mond re­vealed he shares that sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion and ex­cite­ment.

“We knew when we signed Faf and James about the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of their run­ning rugby and who wouldn’t want to see them both out on the pitch?,” said Di­a­mond.

“James has im­pressed com­ing off the bench in the last two games. De­fen­sively he is good and he knows how to run the shape for us.

“He doesn’t need to pull every rab­bit out of the hat tonight. He just needs a good, steady game and, fin­gers crossed, he’ll play well.

“I don’t want to ex­pect too much from James tonight - I want him to run our shape for us and get our for­wards into the game with some big car­ries go­ing off him and let him be the ma­gi­cian with Faf.

“When Jono Ross rec­om­mended Faf to me, we watched some footage of him in ac­tion and I thought how much he would help our crowd. Ev­ery­body wants to watch a guy like him.

“Com­bine those two lads with Denny (Solomona), By­ron (McGuigan) and Josh (Charn­ley) and we have some really ex­cit­ing play­ers.”

Sale find them­selves in the tough­est of Chal­lenge Cup pools given that both Toulouse and fel­low French op­po­nents Lyon are fly­ing high in the Top 14.

But Di­a­mond says it is a prospect he and his play­ers are rel­ish­ing.

“Last year we had Sara­cens and Toulon in the Cham­pi­ons Cup, this year we have the top two in the French league, but it’s a wel­come break for us given how com­pet­i­tive the Premier­ship is,” said Di­a­mond.

“We wel­come any­one at home and we need to win and if we do that then we need to claim bonus points away from home be­cause it will be a dif­fi­cult game go­ing to Lyon next week.

“But we’ve got all guns blaz­ing for tonight and we want to keep up our good record at home.”

The War­bur­ton Bridge will be toll-free be­tween 4.30pm and 7.30pm tonight courtesy of Sale.

The hope is it will al­le­vi­ate rush­hour con­ges­tion by the bar­ri­ers be­ing con­tin­u­ously lifted, mean­ing the com­mute home will be swifter and travel will be smoother to the AJ Bell Sta­dium for the match against Toulouse.

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