Saints keen to set record straight at Sale
At this week's Saints media day, it was apt that two former Sale Sharks men turned up to answer questions.
Top of the list was the typical inquisition about just why Jim Mallinder’s men have found it so tough up at the AJ Bell Stadium in recent times.
They have not won at the ground in the Premiership since November, 2012, when a blanket of fog covered the ground and players struggled to see each other.
Saints handed the conditions best, walking away with a satisfying 27-16 success.
But since then, an Amlin Challenge Cup victory aside, Salford has been an unhappy hunting ground for Saints.
They lost 19-6 there in 2014, with their returning Six Nations stars failing to fire and being dubbed ‘knackered’ by Sale boss Steve Diamond.
Saints then lost there again in January, 2015, struggling to get any sort of foothold in a game that they lost 20-7.
And then in November of that year, Saints were again defeated, in a slightly closer game, that the Sharks won 20-13.
It has been something of a tale of woe, but just why does ex-Sale player and head coach Mallinder, who was joined on media duty by former Sale lock Michael Paterson, feel Saints have found it so tough up north in recent times?
“The Sale team always play with spirit and they always talk about making home a real fortress,” Mallinder said.
“I’ve known since I was there that you want to make it tough for these teams who are coming up north.
“Playing on a Friday night is never easy and particularly as it’s an 8.15pm kick-off, which is quite unusual.
“The conditions can quite often be wet and windy, but we’re used to that and we’ve got to adapt to it.
“I don’t think you can ever underestimate Sale.
“You look at their record over the past few years and it’s not just us who don’t win often enough up there - it’s the majority of teams.
“They do seem to play better, they’ve got a very, very good home record and it’s a lot more favourable than their away record.”
It certainly is, and Sale showed just how strong they can be on home soil when they beat table-topping Wasps 34-28 a couple of weeks ago.
With other sides missing more international players to Six Nations duty than they are, the Sharks have found their prey.
And Mallinder said: “In this period of international matches when we’ve got lots of players missing it’s going to be a very difficult ask.
“They’ve not had a brilliant season but they’re still desperate for points and wins, as we are, to move up the table.
“They’re a very difficult team to beat at home, as we’ve found over the past few years.
“We’ve gone up there and been beaten so it’s going to be tough, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Saints’ Six Nations fixtures have not been kind.
They battled Bath away before travelling to a Newcastle side shorn of few players.
Saints lost both of those matches, though they did have a favourable fixture against Worcester Warriors, which they won 24-14 at Franklin’s Gardens last weekend.
“You never quite know whether you want to play teams who lose a lot of players or not,” Mallinder said.
“What you certainly want is home games because that makes it easier.
“We’ve got three out of our four games in this period away from home. It does make it tough and puts you under a bit more pressure.”