In his latest column for TRU, the Sale forward discusses the importance of the club’s current run of form, targeting a new piece of history, the Sharks’ Springboks and the Premiership play-offs.
I think the run we are on in terms of results is huge. We have spoken a lot as a playing group about momentum and how crucial it is at this time of the year. Alex has obviously been there and done it with Saracens and Craig [White] was at Wasps when they were winning trophies so they have been highlighting the importance of that momentum and just trying to keep hold of it.
I know we have had eight straight wins, but before the break for the Champions Cup final, I think we scraped that win against Bath. The win against Leicester wasn’t pretty so there is still a lot we can do in terms of our performance to make things a bit easier for ourselves and continue that momentum!
I think Quins was a pretty good example of that actually. They obviously sent a rotated squad, but we were pretty clinical on Friday and that was a job well done for us.
In the past, we might have made those fixtures a bit more difficult for ourselves, but in a lot of the areas we wanted to work on, I think we showed those improvements, certainly in our attack.
The week before against Bristol, that was huge for us. That had a ‘cup final’ feel to it in terms of the intensity of the game. I think it showed us at our best with 15-men on the pitch! It did feel like these are the games that we will be approaching, these tight and very physical encounters where you do need to front up. That gave us a lot of belief and confidence in the lead up to what will hopefully be a huge three weeks for us.
The atmosphere for that Bristol game, even with 2,500-3,000 people in, it felt like a full stadium. It is the best atmosphere I’ve heard at the AJ Bell probably since that Saracens game we played around Christmas time a couple of years ago. It was just awesome to have the fans back in and on Friday night, I obviously haven’t played in front of any spectators since I got injured back in November 2019 so that was something I was really looking forward to.
It was nice to see some familiar faces again when you come out to warm-up. It just makes such a difference to a player. It gives you that extra boost because you are not coming out to that eerie atmosphere in the warm-up. You have got a buzz around the stadium and it is just great to see people back really enjoying live sport.
I’d say for the likes of myself, Sam James, Ross Harrison, Cam [Neild] for example, we have been here for the last eight or nine years so for us, that buzz the fans are feeling is extra special to us as well. The club are finally mixing it at the top and it is something we have always aspired to achieve at Sale, to put rugby union back on the map in the North West.
We have all got memories of watching Sale back in 2006 when they won the Premiership. Those Friday nights at Edgeley Park when it was packed to the rafters, watching all those stars like [Sebastien] Chabal, Robbo [Jason Robinson] - who is someone who is great to have back around the club now - and all of those guys from that Premiership winning team, you remember them.
It is something you aspire to do when you come through the academy and when you are a local lad, there is nothing better than doing it for your home club. As a full squad, we now want to be making a new legacy for rugby in the North West.
It is great to see the Du Preez twins [Dan & Jean-Luc] and Coenie [Oosthuizen] in the South Africa squad because they have worked so hard this year and have performed to such a high level. They deserve to be back in the mix again.
Lood [de Jager] and Faf [de Klerk] were kind of established in that squad anyway, but it is still great to see the contingent being rewarded for what they have done this season. They have been massive for us and I think it is special for the club to have so many players in that South African squad and they all thoroughly deserve to be there.
?? ICYMI: These are the 46 players who are in line to face @lionsofficial and @GeorgianRugby when Test rugby returns next month— Springboks (@Springboks) June 5, 2021
?? More here: https://t.co/jXKPOQ9B3f#StrongerTogether #StrongerForever #CastleLionsSeries pic.twitter.com/3M4stM3DCw
I was lucky enough as a youngster to go on a couple of Lions tours myself! Obviously, my Dad was manager in 2005 - which wasn’t one of the most successful tours - but I grew up around it! The memories my Dad has and with him also captaining the Lions, it is such a special occasion to come around every four years.
My Dad talks about that camaraderie and I saw that when I went with him. People from all four nations, who are usually battling it out against each other around Six Nations time, come together and that is unique to the sport and to sport around the world. It is exciting, especially when the Lions are coming up against the world champions, so it is set to be a great series on the pitch.
You can’t go to Exeter, who are the reigning Premiership champions and were European champions last year, and start thinking about other things. If we are to get a home semi-final, we have got to win well but you have got to win first rather than starting to look at the bigger picture.
We are going there to win the game and I think it will be more about seeing where we are within the game when it comes to our approach. I know we need a bonus-point win to get that home semi, but as Alex says, bonus points are a bonus especially away from home against the champions. It is always tough going to Sandy Park, but we will be going there to win and seeing what happens from there.
Josh Beaumont was talking to TRU's Chris Heal