Josh Beaumont Column: 'If you'd said I'd be playing in a home semi-final, I probably would have struggled to believe you'


Sale are back in the Premiership play-offs and Josh Beaumont makes a timely return with his latest column.

He reflects on the season, trying to beat 'The Cube', the influence of the Sharks' big names and Sunday's Premiership semi-final meeting with Leicester Tigers.

'Once you get into the top two, you want to keep hold of that'

I think the start of the season was really big for us getting those five wins on the bounce. It really sets you up well for the whole season and we have tried to maintain that. We've had a couple of drop-offs along the way, especially around Six Nations time, but we got through that.

We had a good win against Saracens [35-24] and we've shown that consistency again towards the end of the regular season. We've kept the standards high in training and during games as well. We are pleased because said in my column at the start of the season there was too much inconsistency last year and we can only see it as a positive this season.

Getting a home semi-final is big because once you get into the top two for most of the season, you want to keep hold of that. To bring a semi-final back to the AJ Bell...well not the AJ Bell, it was Edgeley Park back then...but to get a home semi is massive for the club and for rugby in the region.

Refreshing the mind key to Sale consistency

I think what has been different has been the amount of weeks we have had off this season due to the difficulties we have seen around Worcester and Wasps. We had a bye-week after the Six Nations and then a bit of a break before Europe so lads got away, refreshed and I think that really helped.

I am someone who benefits from having the odd week away in the season. It, at times, can feel like a bit of a slog and even in the first half of the season with our Champions Cup group too, it was relentless in the highest levels of competition. Having that time to switch off was crucial for guys who at that point had been playing all season just to get mentally refreshed and focused.

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Then you have the psychological things Alex [Sanderson] has done a really good job with this season. So as an example, if we had a week off, we'd go somewhere different that first day back. Sometimes it can be completely off-site so one time we went off to do a bit of work with the SAS guys around Wigan but then another time, we went and did The Cube in Manchester so it is little things like that just to mix it up really. 

When we are in training, it is really intense but we need to enjoy ourselves outside of the hard yards we demand of ourselves.

Just so you all know, I was absolutely hopeless at The Cube. Coordination isn't a great asset of mine! Sam and Luke James were very, very good at it unsurprisingly!

'They are invaluable in times like this'

I definitely agree with what Alex said in the week about the semi-final being less of a 'fairy-tale' this time around. It is more down to business this year. Any semi-final week is always going to be different because there is so much on the line but the way we have trained has been a lot more consistent. It feels like just another week and we have to treat it like that.

Last time against Exeter, it was the first time since 2006 we had reached the semis. I remember last time it was a bit strange anyway with it being around Covid and less crowds but this year does feel like a traditional, normal play-off game. It is more about the next job mentality.

A lot of our guys have played in these big games and it is completely normal to them which helps with that mindset. George [Ford], Tom Curry, Manu [Tuilagi], they have spoken about what the prep is like for them in these big games, big occasions. They have played World Cup finals, Premiership finals so it has been great to have those guys to get their feelings, their thoughts, their experiences for the whole squad.

There are some guys, myself included, who have not played in many knockout games in the professional game who will really benefit from speaking to these guys and having them around the squad all week. They are invaluable in times like this.

Ford advice and Manu staying put a good thing for the Prem

George was really good when he was injured during the first half of the year in just offering little bits of advice or suggestions around what we can do in our attack in terms of preserving the energy of a lot of our big lads and picking up on things he has seen in games to training. He is such an intelligent guy and it has been really good for us.

He's now come back in and I know how it is, how it feels coming back from a long injury lay-off, especially an injury around your foot and ankle, your Achilles like his was, it does take you a while to then get back into the swing of things. We've just seen in the last few weeks what he has been capable of.

It [Manu signing a new deal] certainly helps getting bums on seats! Look, it is great for the squad not only for his on-field ability but he is a great lad to have around the changing room and we are really happy he is staying on at Sale. I think as well it is good for the league with everything that is going on with the salary cap and a lot of players looking to move away. It is good to get these English internationals staying put and playing in the Premiership.

Leicester form and why I can't wait for Sunday

Wiggy [Richard Wigglesworth] and the team have been there and done it before last year. Leicester are reigning champs, they have a strong DNA anyway as a club and the way they played when Steve Borthwick was coaching, you can see they have still got that forward power at the front of that. They've got their kicking game, their good basics and it will be a tough challenge on Sunday but we are excited.

When we beat them 40-5 just before the New Year, we'd come off a tough result at Newcastle the week before and that probably motivated us even more in front of a big home crowd, but when it gets to this time of year, they've got momentum, we've got momentum so you can't read too much into results and the past. You can take a bit of confidence knowing that you have beaten them but it is knockout rugby. It is a different beast.

If you had said to me 12 months ago that I'd be playing in a home semi-final, I probably would have struggled to believe you having come off the back of a couple of quite nasty injuries. I have reflected and actually looked back. Personally, it has been a tough two or three years so you've got to make the most of every opportunity and really go out there and enjoy it. Hopefully, there are two big games to come. 

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