European Champions Cup
Diamond chases Euro return
ESPN Staff
January 18, 2015
Danny Cipriani waits as the rain falls in Salford © Getty Images

Sale Director of Rugby Steve Diamond has targeted another European Champions Cup campaign next season after his side's defeat to Clermont Auvergne in Salford on Saturday.

Sale went into the match already eliminated from a tough group also containing Saracens and Munster and Diamond has now turned his attention to a top six Premiership finish in order to qualify for European rugby's premier competition again.

"We have lost at home to three sides - Saracens in the last minute, Munster in the last minute and we were beaten in the last 10 minutes today," said Diamond.

"We've come a long way as a side in this competition but we've got a lot to do and a lot to work on. It's good that we are playing against these kind of sides who are, week in and week out, probably better than us and we will learn from it.

"We are obviously in the top six of the Premiership and the goal for us is to qualify for this top European competition again. If you qualify, you want a group which has sides like Clermont, Munster and Saracens.

"Unlike today, the last two home games have had big crowds and it's a joy to play in it. We could have won this game and we just need to believe in ourselves a bit more. I'm not disappointed because we will beat the mid-table sides in the Premiership if we perform like that week in and week out."

Clermont now face a winner-takes-all clash with Saracens, who beat Munster on Saturday, for automatic qualification. An impressive last quarter in Salford gave them victory, thanks to a Fritz Lee try.

"Fair play to Clermont because they stayed patient and stuck to their guns, came within a score of us and eventually overtook us," said Diamond. "For Saracens to go to Clermont and win would be a huge achievement for an English team. I would say the odds are stacked against them."

Clermont hooker Benjamin Kayser praised a gutsy display from the hosts.

"It's a very English mentality to never give up, even though they didn't stand a chance of qualifying," he said. "That's one thing I admire about the English sides - they never give up and they have so much respect for the European Cup.

"They always give everything and the first half was very tough with the conditions - it was cold and wet, which wasn't ideal. But we really got stuck in, we didn't panic and leaders such as Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez really had the right words to keep our composure, play simple rugby and we did that. It such an important win for us."

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