Alex Sanderson, the Sale director of rugby, is not afraid of breaking new ground in a bid to give his team a winning edge and has turned to one of the world’s leading neuropsychologists in a bid to overturn a one point deficit in their Heineken Champions Cup second leg against Bristol on Friday night.
Sanderson is English’s rugby’s most effusive “out of the box” thinker and his Sale players are getting used to being challenged off the pitch as much as on the training ground. After a break down of the rugby reasons for their disappointing 10-9 home loss to Bristol on Friday night, they were then asked to consider the effects of oxytocin and dopamine on their efforts to reach the Cup quarter-finals.
For Sanderson, using experts from outside sport is nothing new and while he would not name the latest visitor to the club’s training ground he did say: “We did have one of the world’s leading neuropsychologists come in an do a little presentation highlighting our awareness of the effects of oxytocin and dopamine on your effort and energy which you can create through meaningful social interactions and inward reflection, so that is quite deep.
“The neuropsychologist works with special forces, the RAF and Space Defence – whatever that is. He is fascinating and everything you thought you knew about the power of team and its togetherness to enhance performance this guy has irrefutable evidence of why it improves performance. For a group of South Africans who think all this is fluffy, hopefully, the science behind it opened their eyes. We also looked into co-regulation which is little bit mind stretching.
“ We have looked at how we can do better, work harder , get tighter, deeper as a team and individuals to get a better performance rather than look back at why it was so disappointing. We are just opening minds a little about how we can be better.”
However, there is nothing that Sanderson can do to improve the state of scrum half Raffi Quirke’s leg injury which could keep him out for a number of weeks but he confirmed centre Manu Tuilagi would be starting again after he lasted 50 minutes on Friday.
Sanderson has given his support to the idea of introducing a 20 minute red card into the sport which would allow the offending side to bring on another player after that period to replace the one sent off. He said: “There is still a lot of grey there between a yellow and a red. So a 20-minute sanction would affect the game hugely, but not irrevocably, so I think it’s probably a good idea.”