Sale Sharks captain Jono Ross insists it is “massively special” to be preparing for the Premiership final, especially with retirement looming.
It would be a dream send-off for Ross to claim the coveted trophy at Twickenham, as Sale play their biggest match for 17 years against the mighty Saracens.
Ross, 32, has made more than 150 appearances, including topping the Premiership tackle-count for three successive seasons, and has been key to Sale’s rise.
Big hurdle on Saturday
Now the retiring back-row has his heart set on winning the Premiership this weekend as Alex Sanderson’s men look to make it a memorable day at Twickenham.
“I am massively proud of where the club has come from over the last six or seven years,” Ross said.
“When I arrived, we finished eighth or ninth and the goal was to make the play-offs, which we did.
“Now to be in the final is massively special and rewarding for all the work that has gone in, but the job is not done and we have another big hurdle this weekend.
“I think you have got to learn from games like the defeat to Exeter in the semi-finals a couple of years ago, and the mistakes we made.
“Maybe we expended too much energy during the week, but the way we have wanted to play this year we have really found our identity.
“We have another game against the best team in the league, we are going in as underdogs and we have to go out there and make sure it is a special day.”
Ross has become something of a cult figure at the Sharks and while he admits he will be sad to move on, he feels the time is right to hang up his rugby boots.
“I must say that I feel as ready as I ever have to finish. I think the time is right for me,” he added.
“It is a privilege to be able to finish on my terms – that’s a huge thing for me.
“I said to myself when I start finding it a little unenjoyable going out to play when it’s cold and wet in December-January, maybe I know the time is right, and I would say that in December and January I definitely knew the time was right.”
Sale Sharks will of course continue to be in good hands after Ross departs, with the forward having nothing but praise for director of rugby Sanderson.
Guys were given a chance
“When Alex came in, he saw a lot of potential in the group and guys have been given a chance,” he said.
“If you look at the likes of Joe Carpenter, Tom Roebuck, Bevan Rodd and Gus Warr, they have taken their chance and excelled under Alex Sanderson. That is a testament to them and him.
“It has been fantastic for the group. The young guys bring so much energy, hunger and drive.
“Over the last 18 months-two years that Alex has been here I think we have created a great synergy where we are able to say what we feel as a senior group and the coaches respond to that.
“When Alex first arrived I said ‘I will challenge you’ and he said he would challenge me, but it would never be in front of the squad because that is not respectful.
“Hopefully, off the back of that, he improved as a coach and I definitely improved as a person and a player because of our relationship.”
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