Club-by-club guide: Sale Sharks

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Director of Rugby: Philippe Saint-Andre

Captain: Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe

IN

Mathew Tait (Newcastle), Kristian Ormsby (Hurricanes), Dave Doherty (London Wasps), Luke Abraham (Leicester), Dwayne Peel (Scarlets), Nick Macleod (Cardiff Blues)

OUT

Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, Ben Foden, Chris Mayor, Christian Day (all Northampton), Elvis Seveali’i (released), Magnus Lund (Biarritz), Bonner Evans (released), Silvio Martens (Scarlets), Andy Vilk (released), Julien Laharrague (Montauban)

First five games

Sep 7 Newcastle Falcons (A)

Sep 12 Saracens (H)

Sep 19 Bristol Rugby (A)

Sep 26 Gloucester (H)

Oct 1 London Irish (A)

Lessons from last season

A 17-7 last day defeat against London Irish saw Sale leapfrogged for the final play-off place by Leicester - and it summed up a disappointing season for Sale by their own high standards. Coaching duo Philippe Saint-Andre and Kingsley Jones failed to get the best out of a multi-talented squad who, at times, seemed to play more like individuals than a unit. Their struggling lineout highlighted this all too often and the French director of rugby will find himself under pressure if the Sharks don’t mount a decent challenge this season.

Weaknesses

A glaring area that stood out as needing improvement was the Sale lineout, but in more general terms it was that lack of collective spirit and consistency that did for the Sharks last year. It could prove so again with dazzling individuals trying their own thing rather than sticking to the plan. If they get it together though, the Sharks are as good as any in the Premiership.

Strengths

The Sharks pack can mix it with the best. A front row including Andy Sheridan and Sebastien Bruno is a powerful weapon, and a back row housing Jason White and Sebastien Chabal is never likely to take many prisoners. Behind them, a 9,10,12,13 line up of Dwayne Peel, Charlie Hodgson, Luke McAlister (below) and Mathew Tait should have opposition knees-a-knocking if they can gel together.

Player to watch

The arrival of Mathew Tait at Edgeley Park is a mouthwatering prospect for Sharks fans. But where to play him? It’s time he was settled in one position, either outside centre or full-back. The departure of Ben Foden suggests Tait will slot into No.15, but a centre combination of the lithe Tait with the bullocking Luke McAlister is one that will have Saint Andre hovering his Mont Blanc over the team sheet for quite a while.

Did you know?

Sale ruled the roost in county cup rugby for 15 straight seasons, going unbeaten from 1972 to 1987 in every cup fixture.

Prediction Sharks have the quality to rediscover their bite.

2nd

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