Alberto De Marchi (Treviso)
Darren Fearn (Bedford)
Shalva Mamukashvilli (Tbilisi)
Nathan Hines (Clermont)
Magnus Lund (Biarritz)
Chris Cusiter (Glasgow)
Luke McLean (Treviso)
Henry Thomas (Bath)
Tony Buckley (Retired)
Krill Kulemin (Perpignon)
James Gaskell (Wasps)
Dwayne Peel (Bristol)
Rob Miller (Wasps)
For the first time in a good number of years its been a relatively calm pre-season for us Sale Sharks fans.
Gone is the upheaval of moving to a new stadium. As every season passes the AJ Bell starts to feel a little bit more like home. In fact, looking at last year’s results opposing teams are enjoying their visits North less and less. Whisper it quietly but might we even be turning the place into something of a fortress?
There are no changes to the coaching staff. This gives the players a clear message to follow from the previous season and the coaches themselves more time to mould the team as they want it. To me a winning team is built on unity, a bond of togetherness that the players and coaches have now had for another year.
Steve Diamond himself has said that “this is the best squad I’ve had because the recruitment comes down to me, assisted by the coaches.” And who are we to argue with that recruitment after the success of Dan Braid, Jonathan Mills, Michael Paterson and Danny Cipriani in recent years. We have to trust that the new players brought in this year will be as good or even better.
Remember the furore last season when three of our young English players said they were leaving? How would the club move on? Could it survive? I’ll let Steve Diamond answer that… “We lost James Gaskell and replaced him with Nathan Hines. We lost Rob Miller and brought in Luke McLean, who’s a top international. So in most cases we feel we’ve replaced them with better players.”
Quite a statement of intent.
The task of the coaches will now be to integrate the new players into the squad, get them buying into the ethos that served the team so well last year. That will hopefully be made easier by the fact De Marchi, Hines, Cusiter and McLean are all experienced International players. Quality players that I feel will benefit the squad enormously.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I don’t think we are going to win the league this year. A place in the top four would be a nice surprise. But what is an absolute minimum is a place in the top six. We have to push on from last year, use the momentum that was gained and start to solidify our position in the table.
And that momentum must start at home to Bath this Saturday. Remember last year? Nobody gave us a chance away at Gloucester at the start of the season. But that victory almost set the tone for the rest of the year.
Here’s hoping for a repeat in four days time…