Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond defended the decision to play Peter Stringer for the full match in defeat to French giants Toulon on the same day that the former Ireland scrum-half attended Anthony Foley's funeral.

Foley and Stringer were close, having played alongside one another for Ireland and Munster at number eight and nine respectively.

The funeral of Munster head coach Foley, who died suddenly on Sunday, took place today in County Clare.

Stringer was flown to and from the event by a private jet laid on by Sale owner Brian Kennedy.

The 38-year-old Stringer was also returning from a bicep injury and played throughout the 15-5 European Champions Cup loss, Sale's 13th straight setback in Europe's premium competition.

Asked if there was any debate about Stringer playing, Diamond said: "No, no debate.

"When he realised the funeral was today the club owner flew him out and flew him back. Strings wanted to play and was selected on merit and played really well."

Stringer could do little to prevent Toulon, European kings in 2013, 2014 and 2015, from surging into a 15-0 lead after 11 minutes.

With recalled Sale flanker Magnus Lund sin-binned early on for a possibly late and certainly no-arm tackle on Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Charles Ollivon and Leigh Halfpenny took advantage with tries.

Paolo Odogwu pulled a try back on 32 minutes, when the Sharks had a man over with Toulon captain Duane Vermeulen yellow-carded, but there was no further score.