National Two North: Harrogate Rugby coach looking for defensive improvement against Sale

Harrogate's forwards (Photo: Richard Bown)
Harrogate's forwards (Photo: Richard Bown)

Director of rugby Mike Aspinall has placed defensive improvement as top priority in his coaching methods ahead of Saturday’s clash at newly promoted Sale.

Harrogate have had an extra week to prepare for this weekend’s encounter after the RFU left a free week of fixtures for the World Cup final last Saturday.

And Aspinall said the week off had allowed the coaching staff at Rudding Lane time to repair Harrogate’s ropey defensive line, which has conceded 169 points in the first eight games of the National Two North season.

Aspinall said: “Our key now is to find a consistency in our performance.

“It’s taken a while to find our feet and find out what our best side is with the evolution of the club.

“I certainly didn’t see it happening as early as it has this season, and it perhaps caught us off guard. But we now need to find consistency.

“Defensively we haven’t been up to scratch so far. We need to find that trust in our defence and trust in each other.

“We need to put a little bit more pride on our own goal line.”

The coach has yet to decide which back row specialist will replace influential number eight Willem Enslin, saying he would wait for “someone to put their hand up in training”.

Gate have not come across Saturday’s opponents in recent history, and Aspinall admitted his team would be stepping into unknown territory.

Following their promotion from National Three last season, Sale have adjusted to life at National Two level and sit two places below the Cockerels in tenth. But the Greater Manchester side head into the game on the back of two successive victories, including an eye-catching win over high-flying Sandal 20-18.

Harrogate have had troubles on their travels this season and have only won one of their three encounters on the road, while Sale boast a 75 per cent winning rate on home turf.

On Saturday’s opponents, Aspinall added: “Like Sandal, they have come up and are a team that knows how to win.

“I thought they would have done bett er than they have with the way they came through the league below but they are definitely good enough to be a National Two side. Having watched one of their games, they look an interesting team, with a set of backs that are a real handful.

“They play a good wide game and have plenty of threats attacking wise.”