Steve Diamond wary of Montpellier challenge

Steve Diamond is prepared to tackle a strong Montpellier on Friday
Steve Diamond is prepared to tackle a strong Montpellier on Friday

Sale Sharks boss Steve Diamond has described his team's European Challenge Cup quarter-final rivals Montpellier as "formidable opposition."

But Sale, who boast the only remaining unbeaten home record among England's Aviva Premiership clubs this season, are relishing the challenge that awaits them in Friday's AJ Bell Stadium clash.

Montpellier will arrive in the north west on the back of a six-match undefeated run, while they lie second in the French Top 14, six points behind Clermont Auvergne and two above European Champions Cup holders Toulon.

"They are one of the super French sides," Diamond said.

"They are full of South African and French internationals, they are second in the Top 14 and are formidable opposition."

Sale have already beaten French clubs Castres and Pau this season, but Diamond added: "Montpellier are a different kettle of fish. They have got a fantastic team, and we've got to give them a northern welcome.

"The bigger the opposition for us, the team responds really well, so bring them on.

"We've got at least five games to go, so we are going for each one at full-strength. The squad are ready for the challenge, and know what is required.

"It has been a great run-in so far. We are trying to get in the (Premiership) top six and higher if we can if things go our way, but we've just got to take every game as it comes.

"Our home record is good, and we are proud of it and doing our utmost to keep it intact on Friday."

Diamond has made six changes to the team that accounted for Premiership relegation favourites London Irish last weekend, with flanker Magnus Lund captaining the side and being joined by centre Johnny Leota, wing Tom Brady, props Ross Harrison and Vadim Cobilas, plus number eight TJ Ioane.

Sale scrum-half Peter Stringer will equal his former Ireland half-back partner Ronan O'Gara's record of 112 appearances in European competitions when he runs out to face Montpellier.

Stringer, who will be 39 later this year, made his European debut for Munster against Perpignan in 1998.

Montpellier, meanwhile, include South African internationals Frans Steyn, Bismarck du Plessis and his brother Jannie, while former Gloucester player Akapusi Qera packs down in a back-row that also features France international Fulgence Ouedraogo.