London Irish 14 Sale 31: Saint André demands changes to schedule

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The Independent Online

Sale's director of rugby, Philippe Saint André, was an unhappy man last night, despite the Premiership champions' hard-earned victory.

After a bruising match which saw players from both sides taking and giving a battering, Saint André said: "They need to change the rules so that all matches are played no later than Saturday in the week before a round of Heineken Cup ties." Sale travel to meet the Ospreys on Friday and London Irish play the Llanelli Scarlets at the Madejski Stadium the same evening.

"In France all the championship matches were played yesterday. I am sure that no Celtic League matches were scheduled for today either," he said. "We have to travel on Friday night and I cannot see, after such a physical match today, when I can ask my players to train.

"Our system is 48 hours off after a match, then Wednesday is a day off anyway, and we never play for 48 hours before a match. I think it will be more videos than training this week."

Brian Smith, his Exiles counterpart, said: "We have five days to prepare for Llanelli, thanks to the genius who arranged that fixture for Friday night."

Saint André wondered why this Premiership match could not have been played at a later date in the season, but for all that he did acknowledge that this was Sale's best performance in this campaign. That confirmed Smith's worst fears. "This could be the match which kick-starts Sale's season," he said.

It was their first five-point haul, but they were helped by a sloppy Irish side who were guilty of turnovers, careless passes, slack handling, loss of the ball in contact and a lack of concentration. Irish also lost their influential centre Riki Flutey to a thigh injury .

They did tighten up in defence after the interval but in the face of an extremely well organised Sale side they could find no obvious way through. The opposite applied to Sale in the first half, when they scored three of their tries.

Gaps opened up obligingly to let in Mark Cueto, Mark Taylor and Oriol Ripol, for his first. The Spaniard's second try came when he cut through feeble tackles in the 64th minute to keep Sale up with the pack at the top of the table

London Irish: Tries Tagicakibau, Armitage; Conversions Everitt 2. Sale: Tries Cueto, Taylor, Ripol 2; Conversions Hodgson 4; Penalty Hodgson.

London Irish: M Horak; T Ojo (D Shabbo, 71), S Mapusua, R Flutey (S Geraghty, 40), S Tagicakibau; B Everitt, R Rees; N Hatley (capt), D Coetzee (D Paice, 49), R Skuse (T Lea'eatoa, 71), N Kennedy (A McCullen, 64), J Hudson, K Roche (S Armitage, 70), O Magne (Paice, 15-22), J M Leguizamon (P Murphy, 61).

Sale: J Robinson (capt); M Cueto, M Taylor (C Mayor, 47), E Seveali'i (L Thomas, 75), O Ripol; C Hodgson, R Wigglesworth (S Martens, 69); A Sheridan, S Bruno (N Briggs, 69), S Turner (B Stewart, 47), C Jones, D Schofield (S Chabal, 62), J White, M Lund, JM Fernandez-Lobbe (C Day, 80).

Referee: W Barnes (Surrey).

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