Ben Foden feels Danny Cipriani has been the catalyst for Sale’s fine form this season.
The Sharks currently sit sixth in the Aviva Premiership and have qualified for the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals, in which they will host Saints next month.
Steve Diamond’s side have made huge progression since the struggles of last season and are currently just six points shy of the top four.
Foden, a former Sale player, has been impressed with their development and feels mercurial fly-half Cipriani has been the inspiration.
“I’m happy for Sale because a couple of years ago they were touted to go down and were struggling a little bit,” said the England full-back ahead of Saints’ Premiership game at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 2pm).
“They haven’t really gone and signed massive names.
“Cipriani was the most notable and I think he’s been playing really well. He’s the catalyst of their good form and they’ve gone about their business very well.
“They’ve snuck into mid-table range and could even sneak into the top four with a good run of results, so you have to take doff your cap to what’s happened there.
“They’ve silenced their critics on the field, rather than shouting their mouths off and trying to make massive signings.
“They’ve gone about their business quietly, stocked up some wins, won some big games and climbed themselves into competition for a top-four spot.
“We know we’ve got our work cut out at the weekend, but we’ve got our big guns back from international duty and hopefully they will put in a big performance to encourage everyone around them to jump on board and get the season back on track.”