Years in Top Tier: 20
Last Year: 10th in Prem (35 points), Finalists Anglo-Welsh Cup, Group Stage Heineken Cup
Europe: Amlin Challenge Cup
Director of Rugby: Steve Diamond
In: Tom Arscott (London Welsh), Kirill Kulemin (London Welsh), Michael Paterson (Cardiff), Andy Forsyth (Leicester), Phil Mackenzie (London Welsh), Dan Baines (Rotherham), Joe Ford (Leeds), Jonathan Mills (London Welsh)
Out: Kearnan Myall (Wasps), Ritchie Vernon (Glasgow), Charlie Amesbury (Bristol), Andy Powell (Wigan RL), Fraser McKenzie (Newcastle), Ritchie Gray (Castres), Jordan Davies (Salford City RL), Tom Cruse (Rotherham), Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh), Cameron Shepherd (Honda Heat), Corne Uys (Aix-en-Provence), Lee Imiolek (Leeds)
Last year Sale looked odds on for relegation until they were saved by the RFU’s unbelievably draconian sentence handed down to London Welsh, and sacking Bryan Redpath who was replaced by then CEO Steve Diamond.
Now the suit has become the track suit Diamond seems more at home, and with owner Brian Kennedy placing his son as a sort of troubleshooting roving executive rather than wasting money on another CEO Sale seems a slimmer operation with fewer clashes of responsibility.
Diamond’s rough and ready approach seems more suited to coaching and motivating players than staff and whilst other issues will stymie much progress I can’t see them involved in a relegation scrap this year.
Those issues are primarily Danny Cipriani, Nick Mcleod and the centres. Cipriani seems incapable of knuckling down and being a reliable top 4 Premiership fly half, so Sale have to use Mcleod too often. McLeod is an honest pro but he makes Jeremy Staunton look like Dan Carter. He’s just not very good. Last year’s centres were Johnny Leota and Sione Tuitupou, go forward from centres is a fine tactic; but only when you have an on form Cipriani and some creativity in the back three to utilise that ball.
With Mcleod then Cueto and Shepherd in the back three the backs were just too one paced.
Last year the pack had too many show ponies but with Ritchie Gray going to Castres and Andy Powell moving to League they have been shown the door and replaced with Russian strongman Krill Kulemin and teak tough kiwi Michael Paterson. That problem seems to have been solved.
There is still more to do at Sale but much of what was wrong has been fixed.