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Sale Sharks host La Rochelle in the Heineken Champions Cup this weekend, just seven months after the French club defeated the English side 24-20 in their 2019 Challenge Cup semi-final at Stade Marcel-Deflandre.
Both sides were beaten in their season openers last weekend by Glasgow Warriors and Exeter Chiefs respectively and will look to get back on track on Sunday, with the match live on BT Sport and beIN SPORTS from 13:00 GMT.
Steve Diamond (Sale): “We played them in the semi-final last year in the Challenge Cup. [It was] a fantastic occasion, a fantastic environment at La Rochelle, narrowly beaten in the end but again, big pack of forwards, we’ve got a big pack of forwards. It will be more attritional than our first game, I think, but we fancy our chances against anybody in Manchester.”
Romain Sazy (La Rochelle): [On Ronan O’Gara] “Quite simply, he brings his experience of winning things. He’s someone who has experienced big moments, he’s got his hands on almost every trophy, and the experience he had at Munster [Rugby] and with the Irish national team is extraordinary. Above all, he’s a winner and that’s his strength. Besides that, he’s very good technically, but it’s going very well with him on a personal level, too.”
🗣 “This week is massive for us and as a group we’re really excited at where this season can go."@joesimmo10 knows how much their #HeinekenChampionsCup R1 victory means, but he's not getting carried away just yet…
Will they continue the momentum??https://t.co/A4n7owEpqh
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) November 20, 2019
- The only previous meeting between Sale Sharks and La Rochelle in European competition was in last season’s Challenge Cup semi-final with the TOP 14 club winning 24-20.
- Sale Sharks picked up a win in their last home Heineken Champions Cup match (v Scarlets), ending a seven-game losing streak in such fixtures.
- La Rochelle have lost three of their last four Heineken Champions Cup pool games, this after winning their initial three games during their debut season in 2017/18.
- Sale last won against TOP 14 opposition in the Heineken Champions Cup in 2008/09 when they secured victory at home against ASM Clermont Auvergne, however, they’ve lost each of their 10 such matches since then.
- La Rochelle have won two of their last three away games against Gallagher Premiership opposition in European competition, this after winning one of their initial eight such matches (D1, L6).
- Sale and La Rochelle were both kept scoreless in the first half last weekend. Sale, however, were one of just two teams to not concede a second-half point.
- La Rochelle completed 91% of their tackles against Exeter Chiefs, and only Munster (95%) recorded a better success rate in Round 1.
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Sale Sharks had to battle to secure a 25-15 win over a determined La Rochelle side in Heineken Champions Cup Pool 2 on Sunday at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The hosts dominated early on and scored the first try on six minutes as Faf De Klerk found AJ MacGinty and his pass reached Rohan Janse van Rensburg who crossed with ease.
Vincent Rattez responded shortly after for La Rochelle, sweeping inside and collecting after some slow ball, darting through a gap and scoring at the posts.
MacGinty put Sale ahead with a good penalty kick towards the end of the first half to round off the scoring for the opening 40 minutes but La Rochelle would be reduced to 14 men as Pierre Bourgarit had a hand in the face of Tom Curry.
Chris Ashton has now scored 4️⃣0️⃣ European Cup tries 🎉
What an incredible record 🙌#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/UOf2Y2gdtJ
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) November 24, 2019
Brock James scored the first points of the second half for the visitors with a successful penalty kick but Sale soon hit back with interest. The hosts would claim a penalty try as Dany Priso collapsed the maul close to the try line and he was sent to the sin bin as a result.
MacGinty nudged Sale further ahead on 71 minutes as he booted over a three-pointer and they secured victory two minutes later through Chris Ashton, who benefitted from Levani Botia spilling the ball near his own try line, allowing the wing to dot down for his 40th European try.
La Rochelle rounded off the scoring with a delightful try from Jeremy Sinzelle but it would only prove to be a consolation as Sale took the win in Pool 2.
The French side will take on Glasgow Warriors in Round 3 while Sale Sharks will travel to face Exeter Chiefs.
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