Bryan Redpath, the Gloucester head coach who has been heavily linked with an imminent move to Sale, will find his every move monitored when the two clubs meet at Kingsholm this weekend for a squabble over Heineken Cup qualification. He is not, however, the only name in the frame for the vacancy in the north-west. Two New Zealanders with rich World Cup experience, John Kirwan and Pat Lam, are on the interview list, as is Eddie O'Sullivan, the former Ireland coach who worked with the United States last year.
Steve Diamond, now chief executive at Sale as well as running the rugby, has been looking for a coach since sacking Tony Hanks after a heavy defeat by Saracens last month. Such has been the rapid turnover of back-room personnel in recent seasons, he needs to make the right call, especially as two major signings, the prodigal England fly-half Danny Cipriani and the brilliant Scotland lock Richie Gray, are about to join.
Kirwan (who has coached Italy and Japan) and O'Sullivan failed to make the recent shortlist for the England job. Lam, who played at Newcastle and Northampton and is among the most respected figures in the sport, coaches the Auckland-based Blues in the Super 15 – and is having a rough time of it. Last week, the Samoan alleged that some criticism of his side's poor form had been racially motivated.
Redpath played at Sale and is known to be friendly with the owner, Brian Kennedy, a fellow Scot. But while Diamond has big plans – the decision to move to the new Salford City Stadium has generated £500,000 worth of season-ticket sales – there are many who see Gloucester as a faster-growing force. Redpath has the brightest young back-line in the country, has signed the England No 8 Ben Morgan and the brilliant midfield prospect Billy Twelvetrees, and is close to landing the All Black scrum-half Jimmy Cowan.
As expected, the England full-back Delon Armitage will leave London Irish to join his brothers, Steffon and Guy, at Toulon next season. Saracens have signed the 25-year-old Springbok lock Alistair Hargreaves.