Sport George Kruis of Saracens tries to break through the Sale defence on Saturday

If someone had beamed down from Mars – or from rugby’s amateur era, which feels even more remote – for the Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens’ 24-19 win over Sale Sharks on Saturday how would they have judged the spectacle? An arena of wonderfully nuanced and contrasting players such as Saracens’ gliding fly-half Charlie Hodgson and cerebral lock Steve Borthwick? Or a base battlefield of mega-muscled gladiators battering each other Rollerball-style with casualties shipped off to hospital on motorised carts for the benefit of the paying public, television viewer and now – as we are told enthusiastically by competing broadcasters – broadband consumers?

George Kruis of Saracens tries to break through the Sale defence

Saracens 24 Sale 19 match report: Saracens bring Danny Cipriani’s full house down with second-half tries

Sarries remain top of the Aviva Premiership as they grind out victory against a valiant Sale side led by the former England fly-half

Dan Lydiate in action for Wales against Australia in the 2011 World Cup

Paul O'Connell and Dan Lydiate launch late charge for Lions selection

2009 captain and Welsh flanker return from injury desperate to impress coach Warren Gatland

Leicester thrash Sale at home

Leicester got their bid for a home Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final back on track by thrashing Sale 48-10 at Welford Road.

Hendre Fourie

Sale and England flanker Hendre Fourie forced to retire

The South Africa-born 33-year-old made eight senior appearances for England,

Jones bemoans Exiles’ missed opportunities

Worcester 13 London Welsh 6

David Tait: The forward was described as 'an absolute legend of a bloke' by Danny Care

Sale mourn loss of former forward David Tait

Rugby players, coaches and administrators were today mourning the loss of David Tait, the former Sale forward and Scotland seven-a-side international who fell to his death from an apartment block in Hong Kong. He was 25.

Sale’s Danny Cipriani kicked well against Toulon on Saturday

Cipriani finds hope for Sale in Mitchell's special experience

Sale's biggest crowd at the Salford City Stadium they moved into last summer witnessed a fifth loss in eight home matches but the Sharks' obdurate effort against the highly-paid, much-travelled Toulon spared them any hairdryer treatment from their new-old coach John Mitchell or the spectators.

Gloucester’s Freddie Burns (pictured) had his head coach, Nigel Davies, suggesting an England call-up was due after he put Danny Cipriani in the shade in the 29-3 home defeat of Sale.

Rugby round-up: Italy come within an ace of a shock

Australia came close to real embarrassment in Florence when they appeared to slip into coasting mode and ended up in a fight to cling on to a 22-19 victory over Italy.

Charlie Sharples can show this autumn he has an England future

Brian Smith: Stuart Lancaster will be looking to find more proven performers for England

Coach's view: England coach will want to emerge with a clear idea of who he can trust to deliver

Diamond delight at Sale’s first league win

The Sale chief executive, Steve Diamond praised his side’s resilience after they ignored the distraction of the club’s off-field difficulties to defeat London Irish 21-9 last night.

Newly promoted London Welsh could not possibly win a game without Gavin Henson performing like the world-beater he looked like being before his career disappeared down the celebrity plughole

Gavin Henson is finally fit and excited to make Exiles debut

Foremost among the many assumptions ahead of the start of this domestic campaign was that newly promoted London Welsh could not possibly win a game without Gavin Henson performing like the world-beater he looked like being before his career disappeared down the celebrity plughole. So much for assumption.

Drinks are on you: Olley Barkley's Bath team-mates say farewell

Premiership weekend team news

Bath v Sale (Today 2.15pm)

Gavin Henson is looking forward to a fresh start at the Kassam Stadium

Another 'final chance' for Gavin Henson as he prepares to lead Exiles to safety

Former reality TV star tells Chris Hewett he is relishing his return to rugby reality with London Welsh

The former England coach Brian Ashton is wanted by Sale

Sale keen for Brian Ashton to team up with Danny Cipriani

Sale, brimming with ambition ahead of the new Premiership season after making significant strides on and off the field, are hoping to tempt the former England coach Brian Ashton back into big-time rugby.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there