Steve Diamond hopes Sale’s below-par performance in their defeat at Harlequins proves a dress rehearsal for a strong showing against Exeter, who he has described as the “best side” in the Gallagher Premiership.
The league resumed on Friday with Sharks in action at the Twickenham Stoop, but they suffered a 16-10 defeat.
Next up for Diamond’s side is a home clash against title rivals Exeter, who are eight clear at the top of the table after a 26-13 victory over Leicester last weekend.
He said: “We didn’t actually turn it on (against Harlequins), did we. We were disappointing to say the least.
“It might have been a dress rehearsal, well I hope it was, and we can kick on this weekend.”
Exeter have finished in the top two in each of the last four seasons and won the play-off final in 2017.
Diamond admitted the consistency Rob Baxter has been able to get out of his players is the aim for all clubs in the top flight.
“They play a very powerful game and when they don’t score from a kick and go, they have class outside backs who can score like they did at the weekend,” the Sale director of rugby added.
“They are definitely the best side in the competition and have been in the top two for the last five or six years and that is where everyone wants to be.”
🙏 It was important to pay tribute to our NHS & remind everyone, rugby is against racism.
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) August 15, 2020
Before Sale failed to reach top gear on the pitch at Harlequins, a lot of focus ahead of the fixture centred on how the clubs would support the Black Lives Matter movement.
All of the Harlequins players took a knee in a circle, but only four from the Sharks did, although every member of their starting XV wore a ‘Rugby against racism’ T-shirt.
Eight of Sale’s 11 not to take a knee were South African and this week the country’s minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, questioned why they did not take a knee.
But Diamond added: “I think there was four of our lot who took the knee, that’s their entitlement, and the rest didn’t.
I think there was four of our lot who took the knee, that’s their entitlement, and the rest didn’t.
“I think it’ll be a storm in a tea cup. We all wore the rugby against racism T-shirts, which we thought was important, but I don’t think it’s too much to worry about if I’m honest.”
Sale and Harlequins will do battle again on September 21 in the final of the Premiership Rugby Cup.
It was originally scheduled for March before the coronavirus pandemic saw it postponed and, despite a packed fixture list, the 52-year-old is pleased it will be played during the 2019-20 campaign.
Diamond said: “I think it is worthwhile doing it this season. We will get through that and no doubt Quins will as well.
“I am glad we managed to fit it in and before the end of the season so we don’t have to play it in the two or three week break we get.”