It’s never been an easy job being in charge of one of the Premiership’s only two northern clubs, but somehow Director of Rugby Steve Diamond has kept Sale Sharks competitive – even on a budget smaller than most of his rivals in the league.
Despite not having tasted any kind of success in the form of tangible trophies since the days of Jim Mallinder and Philippe Saint-André, Sale have still been able to attract the likes of Danny Cipriani and Peter Stringer to the club and, if rumour is to be believed, Kyle Eastmond may well be heading back towards home, although nothing has been confirmed by Sale or Bath yet.
However, Diamond has also convinced former Wales and Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips to join up with the Sharks, as well as Wales lock Lou Reed, England hooker Rob Webber and Tongan tighthead Halani Aulika.
Of course, as this writer has previously discussed, Sale and Newcastle often end up being perceived as ‘nursery clubs’ and a number of their promising youngsters have left to join other ‘bigger’ teams over the years; two more names can be added to that list in Tommy Taylor to Wasps and Tom Brady to Leicester.
Despite losing Cipriani to Wasps for next season, the club still has a strong squad that is good enough to compete with every club in the Premiership, and players like full back Mike Haley, who played well in England Saxons’ two Test series victory over South Africa ‘A’ in the summer, Ross Harrison, Josh Beaumont and Will Addison all have the potential to go on to be future England internationals.
Add to this fantastic facilities in new home the AJ Bell Stadium and new ownership in the form of CorpAcq Ltd – who acquired the club from previous owner Brian Kennedy earlier this year – and Sale have everything it needs to succeed.
Now the club simply needs to convince locals from Manchester and its surrounding areas that rugby union is worth the admission price and is more worthy of their wallets and attention than that of football and rugby league.
That’s never going to be an easy task, particularly when you look at the attendance figures for last season. At the top of the pile is Leicester with a total season attendance of just under 240,000; Sale lie bottom with just under 68,000. To put it bluntly, Saracens managed to beat that figure with a single fixture at Wembley.
However, Sale have a solid-looking squad and a close-knit team unity that should see them safely avoid relegation and sit comfortably just outside of the top six of the Premiership this season. But like many seasons since 2006, it’ll be mixed fortunes for the Sharks and ultimately the trophy cabinet will still be collecting cobwebs come the play-offs.
Rob Webber from Bath Rugby
Laurence Pearce from Leicester Tigers
Kieran Longbottom from Saracens
Josh Charnley from Wigan Warriors
AJ MacGinty from Connacht
Dan Mugford from Nottingham
Mike Phillips from Racing 92
Halani Aulika from London Irish
Lou Reed from Cardiff Blues
Vadim Cobilas to Bordeaux Begles
Tommy Taylor to Wasps
Danny Cipriani to Wasps
Tom Brady to Leicester Tigers
Phil Mackenzie to San Diego Breakers
Nick Macleod to Newport Gwent Dragons
Joe Ford to Yorkshire Carnegie
Chris Cusiter retired
Mark Easter retired
Prediction: Bottom six
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
Read More About: aj bell stadium, Bath, danny cipriani, feeder clubs, Halani Aulika, jim mallinder, kyle eastmond, leicester, manchester, mark easter, mike haley, mike phillips, Newcastle, north, peter stringer, philippe saint-andre, rob webber, ross harrison, sale, sale sharks, saracens, Steve Diamond, Tom Brady, tommy taylor, Top Story, trophies, Will Addison