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).

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
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

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home