Sale 16-24 Munster
Sharks chief backs dropped Hodgson
PA Sport
October 19, 2008

Sale director of rugby Philippe Saint-Andre insisted Charlie Hodgson has a key role to play at the club after he failed to make the starting line-up for today's Heineken Cup Pool One defeat to holders Munster.

The discarded England fly-half was overlooked for the second successive match as Richard Wigglesworth retained the No 10 shirt following last weekend's opener at Clermont Auvergne. Sale won that game 32-15 in one of the great European victories by an English side but Hodgson had harboured hopes of a recall for the crunch clash with reigning champions Munster.

He entered the action shortly after the restart with his side 13-6 behind and engineered an impressive comeback which drew his side level at 16-16 - only for a late try from David Wallace to give Munster victory. Saint-Andre - whose side failed to collect a bonus point - said: "Munster deserved the win because they were better than us. It's always easy to speak about decisions after the game than before the game.

"Last week Wigglesworth did very well against Clermont Auvergne and that team deserved another chance against Munster. I make the decisions - sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong.

"But Charlie is a fantastic player and in the five seasons that I've been here he has played all the time. Today when he came on he showed what he is capable of and he tried to create a lot of things around him.

"Charlie is an intelligent guy and a hard worker. I'm sure he will be fantastic for us this year. Munster came to do a job on us and they did, especially in the first half."

Indeed, the Irishmen confirmed their pedigree with a stellar first-half display which should have reaped far greater reward than a try and a drop-goal from full-back Paul Warwick, and a penalty and a conversion from Ronan O'Gara. A 13-6 interval advantage in the visitors' favour did scant justice to their dominance of a Sale side who could not back up their impressive demolition of Clermont Auvergne.

Munster looked to be in total control going into the break but Luke McAlister claimed his third penalty and then converted a touchdown from Dean Schofield to level matters at 16-16 shortly before the hour mark. However, Munster again proved their quality when flanker Wallace burrowed over in the right corner with 14 minutes remaining and although centre Lifeimi Mafi was sinbinned in the closing stages, the visitors held on comfortably as O'Gara had the final say with a classic drop-goal.

Munster coach Tony McGahan said: "There are areas for improvement because things are far from over. Clermont are going to be looking to bounce back and they're a top side. But this was another chapter in Munster's history and full credit to the players because they were outstanding today."


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