Diamond unapologetic over Sale's 'weakened' all-English selection

Sale 10 Harlequins 24

Edgeley Park

There is quite a cabaret going on at Sale these days: Steve Diamond, their head cook and bottlewasher, has been serving a touchline ban since February after giving the international referee Wayne Barnes too large a piece of his mind; the brutal sacking of Tony Hanks as head coach caused something of a stink; the spat with Gloucester over the possible recruitment of Bryan Redpath as Hanks' replacement shows no sign of abating – and now they have provoked another ruckus with this final regular-season game by naming a "weakened" side against opponents who would benefit materially from the decision.

All told, then, the impending arrival of the tempestuous Danny Cipriani from Australia should just about put the tin hat on it.

Diamond, though, was not remotely impressed by the allegations, accompanied by a veiled threat of disciplinary action by the administrators at Premier Rugby, over his selection on Saturday: 23 English-qualified players, many of them still wrapped in rugby's equivalent of swaddling clothes, and not a big-name foreign import in sight.

"If Premier Rugby wants to look at my selection, it should also look at their referee selection," he said, still spluttering over some of the calls made by the Leicestershire official Martin Fox, including the disallowing of an early try by the eye-catching young centre Will Addison. "In fact, I think it should concentrate on bigger issues altogether, like the avoidance of the salary cap."

Ah, the salary cap. Diamond is not alone in thinking that certain clubs – naturally, he was not quite up to naming them – are spending way above the limit on squad wages. (Five years ago there were those who wondered whether Sale were playing it strictly by the book, but that's another story.) There have been rumours for some time that, when it comes to salaries, the Premiership field is about as level as the upper reaches of Annapurna, but whether those who run the show have the wherewithal, or indeed the guts, to take action is anyone's guess.

What could not be disputed as Sale played their last game at scruffy old Edgeley Park – next up is a spanking new purpose-built stadium in Salford, praise the Lord – was that in the absence of the All Black midfielder Sam Tuitupou, the Samoan centre Johnny Leota, the Fijian lock Wame Lewaravu, the Russian forward Andrei Ostrikov and half a dozen top-notch Celts, their chances of presenting Saracens with a home semi-final by knocking Harlequins from first to third were a long way short of brilliant. A case for the Sherlocks at Premier Rugby? Absolutely not.

The fuss over Diamond and his player choices was, and remains, logically incoherent. Sale did not seek to deny that, by fielding this side, they passed the Rugby Football Union's threshold under the England Qualified Player scheme and picked up £80,000 in central funding. They also pointed out, reasonably, that there is no point the RFU incentivising clubs to pick English players if the people running the Premiership then punish those clubs for picking English players. To put it another way, how can Premier Rugby state, as it did last week, that a club should field the strongest available side for every league fixture – a side that would inevitably include a number of non-English players – while participating in the union's "home-grown is best" initiative? Double standards on that scale might be a genuine subject for inquiry by a Holmes.

Sale were quick to recall that Newcastle were the first to field an all-English match-day squad in a Premiership game, back in 2006. The Falcons had plenty of foreign internationals on their books at the time – Matthew Burke, Mark Mayerhofler, Owen Finegan, Colin Charvis – but declined to pick any of them for their final league match, with Leeds. The man in charge at the time? That would be Rob Andrew, who oversees the current system for the Rugby Football Union and sits on the all-powerful Professional Game Board. We can take it that he will support Sale on this one.

Besides, the northerners gave a very decent account of themselves. Addison, not yet out of his teens, scored a pearl of a try at the end of the third quarter, taking a difficult pass above his right shoulder on halfway and disappearing into the distance with a combination of swerves and sidesteps.

The visitors were pretty much done and dusted at that point, having opened up a 21-3 lead with a flurry of points either side of the interval, but had Fox not ruled out Addison's first touchdown after two minutes – he was adjudged to have pushed the visiting full-back Mike Brown as he hared after Mark Cueto's clever kick to the line – it might have been a different story.

"People like Addison, Rob Miller and Tom Brady are the stars of the future," Diamond said, with feeling. "We have all these English players coming through, most of them from our own academy; we have a new stadium awaiting us and new training facilities up and running; we have Cipriani coming back from Australia to join us; we're nearly breaking even financially. It's a case of happy days, surely. People should be congratulating us, not criticising us."

Much of which was supported by Diamond's opposite number, the Quins rugby director, Conor O'Shea, who pointed out that Saracens, the side with most to lose from a Sale defeat, had spoken all season about the virtues of squad rotation. Quins deserved their victory here, just as they deserved to finish top of the log after setting the pace for the best part of eight months. Sale? They deserved better than the half-baked criticism they have received from people trying to have it both ways.

Sale: Try Addison; Conversion Bell; Penalty Bell. Harlequins: Tries Care, Brown; Conversion Evans; Penalties Evans 4.

Sale: R Miller; T Brady, W Addison, L Burrell, M Cueto; T Bell, S Mathie (W Cliff, 72); L Imiolek (R Harrison, 50), M Jones (J Ward, h-t), H Thomas, K Myall, T Holmes, W Bordill (T Taylor, 52), D Seymour (capt), M Easter.

Harlequins: M Brown; T Williams, G Lowe, J Turner-Hall, S Smith; N Evans, D Care (K Dickson, 57); J Marler, J Gray (R Buchanan, 61), J Johnston, O Kohn, G Robson, M Fa'asavalu (T Guest, 62), C Robshaw (capt), N Easter.

Referee M Fox (Leicestershire).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there