No hope for Sale?
Dewi Morris casts his eye over the LV=Cup semi-finals and predicts wins for Bath and Saracens.
Last Updated: 07/03/13 10:35am
I am really excited about the LV=Cup semi-finals this weekend and we should be in for some cracking rugby.
The game between Bath and Harlequins on Saturday should be a cracking game and I urge every rugby fan to try and watch this one as both sides love to run with the ball.
I don't think it will be the end of the world if Quins lose this game though - not that they will even be thinking of doing that! What I mean is that they are batting on three wickets and if they did HAVE to lose one then I think the LV=Cup may be the one that would pick - the Premiership and the Heineken Cup will be their main priorities.
Quins were not at the races in their loss to Exeter and will be looking to get back to winning ways against Bath. Exeter stopped them getting the offload away and did everything right.
Quins won't change the way they play but this will be a different team, more or less their second string who have got them this far in the competition, and they will be looking to reward Conor O'Shea's confidence in them.
Bath have certainly turned the corner and are playing some lovely rugby. You could have written them off early in the season - they were just not performing; their backs were dropping the ball and their forwards were just not up to it. Something has happened down there and it is great to see them playing with such confidence.
The way they dispatched Gloucester in the Premiership last weekend was very ruthless and impressive. Their forwards were superb in the line-out and in the scrum - Carl Fearns and Dominic Day carried well and they really did a job on the Gloucester pack. They out thought them and out fought them.
We know how Bath play in the backs and while Peter Stringer did not have a particularly good game, he did get the ball out and they played with a lot of momentum.
Harlequins will be in for a very tough day at the office and I just think that Bath will clinch this one - it will be a fantastic game though, a great curtain raiser for the Six Nations!
Concerns for Sale
Sunday's semi-final is between Sale and Saracens and I have some grave concerns for Sale. They were embarrassing against Leicester in the Premiership and if I had played in that game I would have been ashamed to pick up my wages!
It was not a professional performance and they really need to sort themselves out. They had a good strong side out but their attitude for whatever reason was appalling. They just laid down and did not put up any sort of fight; it was far too easy for Leicester.
Against Saracens they really need to start with Andy Powell. He is the only ball-carrying back row forward that Sale have got. James Gaskell is a good player but he hits contact too upright and is a bit too light. Then you have Dan Braid and Dave Seymour who are two fetchers. End of.
The only other guy you have is prop Tony Buckley but he only comes on with 20 minutes to go - the game is gone by then.
Sale need Powell and Buckley on from the get-go and then the likes of Johnny Leota and Sam Tuitupou to really step up and get some go-forward and aggression.
Sale have an issue at fly-half too. In Danny Cipriani they have a 10 who does not tackle and then Nick Macleod went missing in action at Welford Road last week - he had a terrible game.
It is really time for each player to take a close look in the mirror before they go out on Sunday and front up. It is time for men to be men and take responsibility on how they perform out on the pitch.
On Sale's performance against the Tigers, Saracens will win this one. I hope I am wrong as it would be a great way of Sale getting into the Heineken Cup - if they survive! They need a 50% improvement if they are to stand a chance on Sunday.
Saracens will travel to Sale with the side that have got them through the LV=Cup so far - predominantly it is their second team but they rotate so often that there is plenty of first team experience here. There is so much energy within the camp which is the total opposite of what seems to be going on at Sale.
They have not gone away from the way they play but they do seem to have thrown away that stat-based game that stifled their attack. They do the basics brilliantly and are starting to score some lovely tries.
I cannot see anything but a Saracens win here unless Sale really turn things around.