Sale aim to avoid 'nonsense' at Agen

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The Independent Online

Sale face the French club Agen in the European Shield today with their rugby director, Adrian Hadley, insisting: "We don't want to get dragged into another nonsense game."

Sale face the French club Agen in the European Shield today with their rugby director, Adrian Hadley, insisting: "We don't want to get dragged into another nonsense game."

Sale return to France for the Pool Four game just a fortnight after the match with Auch in which lock Andy Whittle was one of two players sent off. Whittle was dismissed for his part in a mass brawl and completes a 14-day suspension this weekend, but Hadley is confident that Agen will not resort to dubious tactics.

"Agen are a much better side than Auch, as they showed by beating them in the Shield last week," said Hadley. "They also won comfortably in Caerphilly two weeks ago, so Agen will be confident of beating us and will go out to play rugby.

"That will suit us - we don't want to get dragged into another nonsense game - but it's also going to be a difficult test. Agen have quality players like Christophe Lamaison, Abdel Benazzi and Philippe Benetton, so they will take some watching."

Sale, minus their ineligible rugby league recruits Jason Robinson and Apollo Perelini, are again captained by the scrum-half Bryan Redpath as Alex Sanderson continues to rest a neck injury.

While Sale's quarter-final hopes are finely balanced, Harlequins can take a huge stride towards the last eight by defeating Dax today.

Quins, who have won both their Pool Five matches, include the Irish internationals Keith Wood and Paul Burke for their first Shield starts of the campaign. The back-row pair Roy Winters and Pat Sanderson also return after missing last week's win at Ebbw Vale.

Quins follow today's game at The Stoop by travelling to Dax next weekend - two matches which should decide who reaches the last eight as pool winners. "French sides are never easy to play against, and back-to-back fixtures will represent a difficult challenge," admitted the Quins coach, Zinzan Brooke. "Winning the Shield is a way into next season's Heineken Cup, and that is obviously a big incentive, but there's a long way to go yet."

Rotherham hope to preserve their 100 per cent record in Pool Three against visitors Bridgend, while both London Irish and Bristol must beat respective visitors Brive and Parma to promote the quest for quarter-final places.

Newcastle visit Bÿgles-Bordeaux tomorrow targeting a vital away win, but arguably the toughest task this weekend is faced by the Cross Keys coach, David Rees.

Keys tackle the Pool One leaders Benetton Treviso today just six days after suffering a Shield-record 99-8 defeat at Newcastle. "We were kicking off and then running back between our posts," said Rees, whose team trailed by 72 points at half-time. "It was an horrendous first-half - we simply had no answer to Newcastle's attackers - but we've had to pick ourselves up this week for what will be an even tougher test."

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