DIRECTOR of rugby Steve Diamond paid tribute to Sale Sharks' homegrown stars after Saturday's 13-9 Premiership win at London Irish.

The victory – Sale's seventh of the season and their second on the road in the league – moved the Sharks up into sixth and within range of the top four.

And a striking feature of the squad was that 13 of the matchday squad of 23 were products of Sale's academy.

The Sharks face a challenge of a different magnitude tomorrow when Saracens visit the AJ Bell Stadium, but the Sale boss said the way his young charges were maturing spoke volumes.

"Our first job this season was not to get relegated. The second was to get into top six and then take it from there so we're delighted to get the win," he told the club's website.

“I thought the pack played well and in the backs we were missing Marland [Yarde], Denny [Solomona], Byron [McGuigan], AJ [MacGinty], Rohan [Janse van Rensburg] and James O’Connor, so our young English back line went out and did really well.

“Overall, I was delighted with the strength in depth that was out there.

“Take Faf [De Klerk] and Josh Charnley out of that back line and everyone else has come through the academy and the pack is pretty much the same, so we’re delighted that our homespun team got the win.

"I also thought Sam James deserved great credit at fly-half. He has stepped into the position like he's played there all his career and with his young brother, Luke, he's formed a great partnership and they are going to be difficult to drop when our superstars return.

"It wasn't the perfect performance by any means but we had guts and determination and I was relieved when they took the kick near the end when they were awarded a penalty near our line.

"Credit to Irish, they defended like dogs and we got over the line two or three times, but we couldn't finish it off.

"We knew how difficult it would be but the good thing is we don't have to get them up for Sarries.

"And if we get it tactically right and get it technically right then we can give Sarries a run for their money."