Powell & Smith preview Anglo Welsh LV= Cup final

Such is Sale Sharks’ change of fortunes since the turn of the year that No.8 Andy Powell insists they aren’t concerned with what Harlequins will do in the Anglo Welsh LV= Cup final, instead choosing to concentrate on their own game.

Sale’s Aviva Premiership campaign has seen them languish at the bottom of the table for most of the season, taking until round eight and the visit of London Irish to record their first league victory.

But the Sharks have won five of their last seven games in all competitions, their most recent seeing them get the better of Saracens 21-15 to book themselves a spot in Sunday’s Anglo Welsh LV= Cup final at Sixways against reigning Aviva Premiership champions Quins.

What was most impressive about the victory over Sarries was that they denied the visitors at Salford City Stadium a try – the London club having crossed the whitewash 11 times in their three games previously.

And it is this defensive effort and upturn in fortune that gives Welsh forward Powell belief that the Sharks can end what has been a difficult campaign with something to show for their efforts.

“I think this final Sunday down at Sixways is massive for us and if we can win that it puts us in really good stead for next week,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say the cup is more important – we’ve put ourselves in the position where we can win silverware, but I think the league’s massive and we need to stay up.

“It’s really important to everybody involved in Sale, but if we can get a bit of silverware and win this tough game against Quins and stay up it won’t turn out to be a bad season.

“We are concentrating on how we’re going to play instead of how Quins are – there’s a little bit to take in there but more importantly it’s about how we play and come out as a team and attack them.

“Saracens are so disciplined and so organised so to stop them from getting a try in the semi-final was a brilliant effort from everybody. I think we’ll take that confidence in this week and have the belief to go and win it.”

Sunday will be the fourth successive Anglo Welsh LV= Cup final with no Welsh involvement, with Harlequins bidding to become just the second reigning Premiership champions to carry off the Anglo-Welsh Cup following London Wasps in 2006.

The Sharks have not lost a major final since Newcastle Falcons beat them 37-33 in the 2004 Powergen Cup final, but they have lost on their last three visits to Sixways since beating the Worcester Warriors there 37-20 in the Premiership in January 2009.

Harlequins, unbeaten in the Anglo Welsh LV= Cup this season, have won the last six meetings between the two clubs in all competitions and have been victorious in their last five finals appearances – a record dating back to 2001.

But despite what the history books suggest, Quins’ Sam Smith is taking nothing for granted.

“Sale have a very decent squad and can hurt you if you switch off in defence,” the winger said.

“They showed last week when they stopped Saracens from scoring that they’ve got a very good defence so we’re going to have to be on our metal and try and break them down.

“I think probably on paper experience-wise and age-wise we might be the underdogs but if we go into the game the same way we did last week then people will give us a lot of respect and it seems like an even match with two pretty good teams going out on the pitch.

“They may be focusing on the league but this is a chance for them to get into the Heineken Cup so they well be gunning for it.”

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