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Sale Sharks travel to Racing 92 in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals on Sunday aiming to reach the last four of the competition for the first time.
Sale have reached the last eight twice before, losing away against French opposition on both occasions – at Biarritz Olympique in 2005/06 and then at Stade Rochelais last season.
The game at Paris La Defense Arena, which is a first Heineken Champions Cup meeting between the two sides, kicks off at 15:00 (UK & Irish time) and will be televised live on BT Sport, Channel 4, beIN SPORTS, Virgin Media and France 2.
Other key facts:
- Racing have won two of their previous five knockout stage games against English opposition (L3), while Sale have lost both of their previous knockout ties against French opposition.
- This will be Racing’s fifth consecutive appearance in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup and their seventh overall. They have won three and lost three of their previous six ties at this stage. However, they won just one of the three which took place at home.
- Racing have won their last six games at home against Premiership opposition in the Heineken Champions Cup, although three of their wins during that period came by margins of 10 points or fewer.
- Sale have lost each of their last 10 Heineken Champions Cup away games on French soil, a run which includes their record defeat in the competition (0-62 v RC Toulon in December 2012).
- Of the teams remaining in the Heineken Champions Cup, no side have averaged more possession this season than Racing (54%), while only Montpellier Hérault Rugby have had less possession than Sale (46%).
- Racing made the joint most line breaks of any team in the Round of 16 second-leg fixtures (10). Their 6.8 clean breaks per game is the third highest average of any club this season.
- No side in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup have completed more dominant tackles than Sale (45). However, their 84% tackle success rate is the lowest of any side remaining in the competition.
- Among players from teams still remaining in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup, only George Ford (60) has made more kicks from open play than Racing’s Finn Russell (50). Russell has also made eight passes that have led directly to a line break in the competition this season, two more than any other player.
- Sale’s Lood de Jager has claimed the joint most lineouts in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (36). De Jager also ranks joint-third for lineout steals this term (3).
The Sharks are heading to Paris 👊
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) May 1, 2022
AJ MacGinty (Sale fly-half): “I know the lads pretty well and the type of people they are – they will relish that occasion and the underdog mentality. So, it is really about how we perform as a team – meaning we can’t play as individuals.”
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Racing showcased some brilliant attacking rugby as they beat Sale Sharks 41-22 at Paris La Defense Arena, teeing up a Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against TOP 14 rivals Stade Rochelais.
Racing, who will play La Rochelle at Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens, crossed for three superb tries against Sale, through Teddy Thomas, Finn Russell and Juan Imhoff, adding to Nolann Le Garrec’s 19 points.
Sale led at half time thanks to Manu Tuilagi’s score but were unable to live with Racing in the second half, despite getting over through Akker van der Merwe and Ben Curry.
Sale centre Robert du Preez was off target with a penalty on nine minutes as the two sides looked to wrestle control, and Racing would then move into a six-point lead through two quick-fire efforts from scrum-half Le Garrec.
HOW ON EARTH HAS HE DONE THAT?! 🤯
An outrageous piece of skill from Teddy Thomas has given @Racing92 the lead in this quarter-final…
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) May 8, 2022
Sale scrum-half Faf de Klerk knocked on over the line as his side sought their first points of the game, which eventually came through a du Preez penalty on 23 minutes.
As the remainder of the half was dominated by set pieces, Racing looked set to take their slender lead into the break, but centre Tuilagi scooped up a loose ball and found a route to the try line for a score which handed Sale the advantage.
Racing hit back with a try two minutes into the second half as wing Thomas produced an outrageous finish, gathering the ball and kicking forward in one motion to avoid going into touch, before scooping up and dotting down out wide.
A superb performance from the French side 👏 pic.twitter.com/StGJtDrKwW
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) May 8, 2022
Le Garrec converted and extended Racing’s lead with a third penalty of the evening five minutes later, and points continued to flow for the hosts as fly-half Russell half-volleyed up the pitch and ran onto his own kick, hacking forward before picking up and planting down in the corner.
Sale found a response five minutes later as hooker Akker van der Merwe burrowed over from close range, but two more Le Garrec penalties moved Racing back into a healthy lead.
The hosts then pulled clear as wing Imhoff finished off a flowing move involving Le Garrec and full-back Spring.
Replacement flanker Ben Curry dotted down to give Sale a flicker of hope with seven minutes to go, but fly-half AJ MacGinty was yellow carded before Spring rounded off Racing’s win with another brilliant try in the final play of the game.