Mike Brewer's divisive reign as Sale's head coach came to an abrupt end yesterday when the Premiership strugglers sent the former All Black flanker on his way. Unpopular with senior players who resented his confrontational approach to man-management – Mahonri Schwalger, the captain of Samoa, left the club because he could not get along with the New Zealander, while the England outside-half Charlie Hodgson has been linked with a move to Northampton – Brewer lasted only eight months at Edgeley Park.
Pete Anglesea, revered by supporters during his playing days as a Sale loyalist, will head up the back-room operation on an interim basis, aided by the newly-appointed forwards coach Steve Scott, the backs specialist Byron Hayward and the defence strategist Graham Steadman. Kingsley Jones, relieved of hands-on coaching duties when Brewer arrived, will continue as director of rugby with responsibility for squad development.
Brian Kennedy, the Sale chairman, said Anglesea was the "obvious choice" as a short-term fix. "Pete has been part of the club for many years and his coaching record this season with the Jets [the Sale second-string] and the LV= Cup squad is exemplary – indeed, he has yet to taste defeat," he said. "We will now undertake a thorough search to secure the best coaching team and structure for the future." And Brewer? "I am personally very disappointed that this has not worked out," Kennedy commented.
Brewer's reputation as a "my way or the highway" kind of coach was reinforced almost immediately when he outlined his plans in an extraordinarily candid interview with local media. Schwalger quickly decided he could not work with him, and when the coach criticised Hodgson in public after a narrow Premiership defeat by Wasps in October, rumours of the outside-half's impending departure gathered momentum. Since then, the team have won only one of their four Premiership games and are on their way out of the Amlin Challenge Cup.
This weekend's Boxing Day programme has been hit by the weather, with both West Country matches – Gloucester-Northampton and Bath-Exeter – postponed because of frozen pitches. A third game, the bottom feeders' scrap between Newcastle and Leeds at Kingston Park, has been put back 24 hours and will, all things being well, go ahead on Monday afternoon.
That leaves the Saracens-Wasps encounter at Wembley – a game that marks the sporting return of the well-known ballroom dancer Gavin Henson, who has been named on the Sarries bench and is confidently expected to make his club debut some 20 months after his last appearance for the Welsh side Ospreys. Henson needs as much game-time as possible if he is to realise his ambition to play Six Nations rugby in February. Harlequins, who have sold more than 70,000 tickets for their Twickenham meeting with London Irish on Monday, say the game will definitely go ahead.