Our run-through of Heineken Champions Cup Pool B teams now turns to Gallagher Premiership outfit Sale Sharks.

Heineken Champions Cup record

Though they have twice lifted the Challenge Cup, Sale have never progressed beyond the quarter-finals of EPCR’s leading competition, falling to TOP 14 teams on three occasions.

They first reached the last eight in the 2005-06 season, succumbing 11-6 to Biarritz Olympique. It wasn’t until 2020-21 that they made it to the quarter-finals again, with Stade Rochelais triumphing 45-21 on that occasion. A maiden semi-final evaded them again in 2021-22 as Racing 92 clinched a 41-22 victory.

Last season

Despite losing 25-19 at ASM Clermont Auvergne in Round 3, home (49-10) and away (21-13) wins against Ospreys were enough to secure Sale an eighth-place finish in Heineken Champions Cup Pool A and a spot in the Round of 16.

They defeated Bristol Bears 44-39 on aggregate to reach the quarter-finals but went down 41-22 to Racing at Paris La Defense Arena.

Director of rugby

Alex Sanderson has been at the helm at Sale since January 2021, having spent over a decade as an assistant coach at Saracens, where he retired from playing in 2005 amid a back injury.

The former back-row forward earned five England caps and spent the majority of his playing career at Sale, turning out 19 times in EPCR competitions and lifting the Challenge Cup in 2002.

Key players

Sale’s squad includes large contingents of England and South Africa internationals, with hooker Akker van der Merwe, prop Coenie Oosthuizen and back-row forwards Dan du Preez and Jean-Luc du Preez all boasting Springbok caps.

Prop Bevan Rodd, lock Jonny Hill and flankers Ben Curry and Tom Curry are the leading English players in the pack, while uncapped South African lock Jono Ross is another key figure.

In the backs, scrum-half Raffi Quirke and centre Manu Tuilagi have been joined by fellow England international George Ford ahead of this season, with the former Leicester Tigers man providing an alternative to versatile South African Robert du Preez at fly-half.

Pool fixtures

Sale host Ulster Rugby in their Pool B opener on December 11, before a trip to Stade Toulousain comes a week later in Round 2.

January 14 sees them welcome the five-time winners of the competition, with their pool stage concluding at Ulster on January 21.