In his latest TRU column, Sale’s Josh Beaumont discusses the Sharks’ excellent recent form, the club’s impressive youngsters and the chance to reach the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals.
If you look back at the last couple of weeks, our wins against Wasps and Scarlets have obviously been two very contrasting victories.
We had that arm wrestle at Wasps where things didn’t go our way, but we stayed in the fight and we showed that togetherness we have as a team. We have spoken a lot about that ‘brotherhood’ which I mentioned in my last column, so to nick it at the end was a pretty special win for us in a Premiership game where we wanted to keep putting distance between ourselves and the other challengers for the top four.
Last week was an amazing result for us in Wales. The last 16 of the Champions Cup is, of course, new for this year, but we haven’t been in the knockout stages since 2006 so it was our opportunity to show what we can do on that stage and I think we did that pretty emphatically.
It was nice that it was an all-round performance as well. From the defensive side of things, we put the Scarlets under so much pressure and we forced them to make a lot of mistakes and we were then just clinical in our attack so it was a really pleasing victory.
I think it also highlighted the cultural things we are doing at the club as well. It showed that brotherhood we have been building and it shone through on the field, but there is still a lot more work which we can do.
It is only the start of the journey which we are on. We are always trying to grow as a squad and get to know each other to a greater extent. When we last spoke, it was about understanding the process of the culture we want here and I think we are starting to see that in our performances.
The younger guys have been playing really well lately. It is something I love to see. Having been a young lad once myself, it is great that the local lads are pushing us senior guys hard! They are taking their opportunities and showing their clear talent.
They are fearless in the way they play. Look at Raffi [Quirke] when he comes on! He taps and goes and is electric off the mark! He is in great form and Bevan Rodd has been outstanding too. His scrummaging has been unbelievable and I think it is only a matter of time before he starts knocking on the door internationally.
For me, I am loving playing at the moment. It is nice after the 12 months that I have had to be back on the pitch again, out with the lads. It is a lot nicer when things are going well from a team point of view and honestly, it is a great club to be part of at the moment and I hope it continues.
He is in great form at the moment, isn’t he?! As a team, it is nice for the captain to just throw him the ball knowing that he will keep the scoreboard ticking over from the tee! Just the way he is playing, it just helps us go through the gears as a team. Defensively as a 10 as well, he leads that line speed with the likes of Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Sam Hill etc. They set the tone so his all-round game is brilliant and he just drives standards around training and on game day as well.
We know it will be a big challenge. It is somewhere where we have been recently and unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the results we wanted. There are still individuals in our squad who know what it is like to travel to La Rochelle, but we have mainly just looked at how they have played in the last few weeks rather than focusing too much on what has happened in the past.
You heard Ronan O’Gara talk about the ‘KBA’ ‘Keep Ball Alive’ after their win against Gloucester and we know they have got some individuals that will spark them into action. The challenge for us is to shut down those individuals and trust what we have been doing over the last few weeks.
We know how dangerous [Levani] Botia can be and they have got big Will Skelton who I, and we, have played a lot of times against in the Premiership! It is pretty obvious to see their huge squad depth and we saw their offloading game last week so it is up to us to try and take our defence to another level again this weekend because you can’t just focus on those two players!
As I said before, we have played La Rochelle away in the last couple of seasons and both have been close games so hopefully we can make it third time lucky this year.
I know this is very cliché, but we have not looked beyond this weekend coming! I know some lads aren’t sure if it is back to the Premiership or not over the next few weeks because we are playing back-to-back so much! I know that sounds stupid, but we just keep it fresh each week.
We have a change of focus. Our gameplay might not change, but everyone is just remaining on their toes and is excited for what is coming. It is good we have come through some tight games recently and this is now a great opportunity for us in Europe so it is all about this weekend for us.
Josh was speaking to TRU's Chris Heal