Inspired by one of, if not the best Sale Sharks performances I’ve seen in my six season ticket holding years, I decided to have a crack at an all-time Sale Sharks XV.
Note: whilst Sale’s history goes back all the way to 1861 when Sale FC were first founded, I am only including players who played under the “Sale Sharks” moniker from 1999 – onwards
Loosehead Prop: Andrew Sheridan
Injuries and England international duty detracted from Sheridan’s time at Sale limiting the frequency with which he played at club level but nonetheless he remained a dominant prop unlike anything Sale (or England) have produced in years. Snagged from Bristol in 2003, Sheridan in his 9 years at Sale was the premier front-row forward in all of England and was a focal point of the dominant Sale scrum of the mid-noughties. Capped 40 times by England and was on the Lions tour to New Zealand in 2005.
Hooker: Steve Diamond
As abrasive on the field as he is now Director of Rugby of the Sharks, Diamond has played a large part in Sale’s fortunes in the last twenty years. Amassing 96 appearances for Sale in a one-club career, Diamond is now in his second go-around as a coach for Sale having being part of team-mate Jim Mallinder’s coaching staff after retiring in 2000. His return as DoR last season was instrumental in helping Sale avoid relegation during a turbulent campaign.
Honourable mention: Andy Titterell, Sebastian Bruno
Tighthead Prop: Lionel Faure
Technically this is cheating considering Faure played predominately as a Loosehead, but Faure was capable on the other side of the scrum and was certainly as good as any other tighthead in Sale history. A French import brought to Sale by Philippe Saint Andre and a key cog in Sale’s title-winning team, Sale’s Loosehead duo of Faure and Sheridan was unstoppable in the PSA years. An excellent scrummager and a hard worker at the breakdown, Faure was a fan-favourite. Faure’s legacy at Sale was hit by injuries, although 64 appearances in four seasons before moving to Clermont in 2009 cemented his place in Sale lore.
Second Row: Dean Schofield
Deano as he is affectionately known enjoyed a storied career at Sale both before and after their run to prominence during the mid-noughties. A savy but tough grafter of a player as well as a keen leader, Schofield served as club captain for the 2009-10 season before leaving for Toulon. Now at Worcester he has again established his leadership credentials captaining his newest side this season.
Honourable mention: Chris Jones
Second Row: Jason White
Another former club captain for both Sale and the Scottish national side, White was one of the most versatile players to ever play for either side being able to play anywhere in the second and back rows. A key cog in Sale’s scrum during their run to the Premiership title in 2006, White’s importance was probably felt the most the season after which he missed in it’s entirety after tearing his ACL. White amassed over 100 appearances for Sale before moving to Clermont in 2009.
Honourable Mention: Christian Day
Blindside Flanker: Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe
Perhaps the most brilliant of Philippe Saint Andre’s acquisiations during his time as DoR is that of the Argentinian flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (along with his brother Ignacio). Another former captain, Lobbe was dynamic all over the field be it as lineout captain, barking orders to team-mates or as a ball-carrier scoring 16 tries in 66 appearances for Sale.
Openside Flanker: Daniel Braid
Former All-Black Dan Braid has only been at Sale for 14 months but in that time he has already cemented himself as one of the greats to ever play for the club. Joining in January of last year with Sale sitting rock-bottom of the Aviva Premiership, Braid was a key catalyst in orchestrating an incredible turnaround that saw Sale avoid relegation and finish 10th. A vocal leader with great awareness in all aspects of the game led him to replace Dave Seymour as club captain this season and has since proven worthy of the title, appearing in every Premiership game this season helping Sale’s push for a top-six place. He’s pretty good at the back of a rolling maul as well.
Number Eight: Sebastian Chabal
A cult figure and fan favourite of Sale supporters, Sebastian “Seabass” Chabal was a freak physical specimen the likes of which Sale have not seen since. Standing 6ft 3, 250 lbs with thick, long hair and beard, Chabal cut an intimidating figure both on and off the pitch. A dominant figure at the back of the Sale scrum, Chabal was unmatched in terms of being able to consistently break over the gainline and deliver huge tackles to the opposition, many of which are worth watching on YouTube.
Scrum-half: Bryan Redpath
Now Sale’s backs coach under Steve Diamond, Redpath’s playing days were littered with appearances and success with Sale. In the five years Brush spent with Sale he had 80 appearances as first-choice scrum half and played a pivotal role in Sale’s 2002 Parker Pen Shield triumph over Pontypridd. He also made 60 appearances for Scotland.
Honourable mention: Richard Wigglesworth
Fly-half: Charlie Hodgson
Easily the greatest fly-half in Sale’s history, Hodgson could also stake a similar claim for being the Premiership’s greatest. The all-time Premiership top points scorer with 2,286 of which he scored 2,198 over an 11-year span with Sale, Hodgson was a consistent figure on the Sale team sheet with incredible kicking displays. Despite never quite managing to put it all together at international level, Hodgson’s success is unparalleled in Sale history.
Honourable Mention: Mike Hercus
Winger: Steve Hanley
Standing 6ft 4, Steve Hanley was a perfect blend of both speed and power and was Sale’s most dynamic attacking player for many of the early 2000 years. From the beginning of his career Hanley had a great nose for the try-line scoring 104 tries in 191 appearances in all competitions for Sale and was, until February of last year, the all-time top try scorer in the Premiership until a certain Mark Cueto eclipsed that mark. After being forced to retire with a back injury, Hanley moved into a commercial position with the club maintaining many of his links with the club.
Inside Centre: Luke McAlister
Another former All-Black, Luke McAlister was brought to Sale by Philippe Saint Andre after an impressive 2007 World Cup. Able to play both fly-half and inside centre, McAlister excelled at both and displayed an incredible combination of physical ability and tactical nous during his two seasons at Sale, scoring 204 points in only 34 games. McAlister is arguably one of the most purely talented players ever to play at Sale.
Outside Centre: Sam Tuitupou
Finding an outside centre for this list was not as easy as picking a fullback or a No.8. Sammy Tuitupou therefore makes the list on the relative weakness of the position and for his tenacious defence and fan favourite status. Another former All-Black and capable of playing both centre positions, “Hacksaw Sam” signed from Munster in 2011 and quickly impressed with his commitment in defence, hard running lines and most notably his bone-crunching hits. At 32 and having signed a two-year contract extension last season, Tuitupou still has time to cement his position in Sharks history.
Winger: Mark Cueto
Just like his fellow winger on this list Steve Hanley, Mark Cueto’s entire career has been spent at Sale. At the ripe old age of 34, Cueto is still a mainstay in the Sale team as first choice left wing and has continued to play week-in week-out. Last February Cueto broke the record for most Premiership tries ever scored by one player (previously held by one Steve Hanley with 75) and has continued to build upon it scoring 8 tries so far this season taking his all-time total to 86. Cueto signed a one year extension last month which will surely take him to the end of his career and perhaps triple figures in tries scored.
Fullback: Jason Robinson
Another easy choice for a spot on this list, Billy Whizz was simply a sensation during his time at Sale after making the cross-code switch from Wigan in 2000. A revolution as a Union fullback, Robinson pioneered many of the traits common in modern-day backs. Lightning quick, with excellent footwork and a turn of pace, Robinson exceeded at both club level and as part of England’s 2003 World Cup Winning squad. An incredible career saw him score 248 and 140 points for Sale and England respectively and in 2006 became the first player to win both the Premiership and Super League.