On Easter Sunday earlier this year, Laurence Pearce made the trip to the AJ Bell stadium with his Leicester Tigers teammates, only to come away with a losing bonus point having been beaten 27-20. Now, it’s the place he calls home.
“Playing for the opposition, it’s tough to come to the AJ Bell and get a result because of the way the boys really work for each other. The fans are great too.
“You can be losing by 10 with 20 minutes left and they’ll just keep grinding away, kicking those penalties and scoring those tries.”
But, with the Sale Sharks faithful now firmly behind him, the six-foot-four back row is relishing his new lease of life in the north-west, having joined the club as one of nine summer additions made by Steve Diamond.
“I’m settling in really well,” he explained. “Dimes is a nice bloke – all the coaches are really good lads. They’re all from similar backgrounds so they have a similar view on life, and a lot of the boys, including me, are certainly buying in to that.”
Pearce made his debut in the opening day defeat at Kingston Park, but despite the result, he explained it was a great feeling to make his debut.
“It was really nice. It was nice to get a run out, and it’s nice to come to the club and get game time. I was struggling to get game time at Leicester, so it’s nice to know I’m going to get that here.”
When asked about his targets for the season, Pearce remained open minded.
“I haven’t set a specific target, I just want to be in and around that match day squad every week, injuries forgiving. I just want to be in the mix as much as possible.”
“I just want to be the best I can, and fit in to the side where I can. It’s about the team, it’s not about individuals. We all work hard for each other and if my attributes can help the team, then that’s even better.
However, even if he hasn’t set personal targets, Sale Sharks Director of Rugby Steve Diamond has firmly set his sights on a top-four finish, something Pearce has been used to over the past couple of seasons.
“I’ve come from a club where they expect to be in the top four, but the ethos here is a bit different. We attack the game a bit differently from a team that’s been in the top four a lot. I think the way we play is impressive. We just go for it and, if we’re not quite there, there’s never a lack of effort.”
Looking ahead to today’s match against Gloucester, Pearce was confident that the side have what it takes to get revenge on the team that ended The Sharks’ perfect home record last season.
The Cherry and Whites claimed a 12-11 victory at the AJ Bell in the final home game of last season, after The Sharks had won their previous ten fixtures at the stadium.
“If we stick to our process and do what we do well, there’s no reason we can’t beat them. We’ll need to run hard, defend hard, and work hard for each other. We just need to keep battling.”
This feature was used as the centre-fold in Sale Sharks’ programme against Gloucester on Friday 16 September.