Alex Sanderson lauded the impact of the returning George Ford as Sale Sharks secured their third win of the season with a 24-10 success against Gloucester last Friday night.

Fly-half Ford returned to the side following the Rugby World Cup and helped Sharks to move top of the Premiership table ahead of the other weekend matches with a bonus-point win at the Salford Community Stadium.

They now sit third, two points behind leaders Exeter, with coach Sanderson delighted by Ford’s all-round performance.

“It’s not just what he brings in the game, it’s what he brings in the week,” said Sanderson. “He has raised standards, with an increase in energy and an increase in small talk away from the training ground.

“His ability to shift the point of attack, and again his consistent ability to drive energy. He is the first person to go around back slapping, even when things are going wrong.

“It is a really important trait to have as a leader.”

Arron Reed scored twice in the first half to give Sharks a 12-3 lead, wiping out George Barton’s early penalty.

Ben Curry and Agustin Creevy then scored to seal the points, with Freddie Thomas’ try three minutes from time nothing more than a consolation for Gloucester.

“We won a lot of the little scraps, crumbs and that generally comes down to an intensity that you are playing with,” said Sanderson.

“Gloucester’s defensive shape was brilliant, the way we maintained the ball and kept quick ball well. That is what we have been working on in terms of our attack, so there was growth there that wasn’t there last week. I want to keep that going.

“Reed was exceptional tonight on that wing, not many would score the tries that he did because of the turn of pace and the gas he has.”

Gloucester rested their international stars, and with star signing Zach Mercer also ruled out, their inexperience showed.

But boss George Skivington was pleased with the endeavour shown by his young side, despite a second successive defeat.

“I’ve made no secret that we want to get some of these young players the experience, they are going to be really good players,” he said. “They are very good players; if they don’t play, they will never be in the position to be those gnarly experienced players.

“I thought the game management was pretty good, we got ourselves in good positions.

“I thought George (Barton) did a good job, but when we pulled the trigger there’s a couple of simple tries we left out there and a little bit of accuracy out there in some areas.

“We’ve got to be honest about it which we will, but there was some good experience gained for some young lads.”