Sale find a body double for Chabal

Hole left by departing French giant to be filled by 'baby brother' Abraham
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The Independent Online

When Sébastien Chabal leaves Sale at the end of this season, after five years honourable service, life for the Sharks without this rampaging bull of a man will not be the same. But the outlook may not necessarily be quite as bleak for the club as it might at first appear.

Sure, the return to France for family reasons by Chabal will leave a huge hole in the squad, the dimensions of which are approximately 6ft 3in and around 18st. But a canny signing in the summer by director of rugby Philippe Saint André may actually have gone a long way to filling in that hole already.

Chabal, whose shoulder-length jet black hair and piratical black beard, which have made him an icon in France – his picture was everywhere on billboards and posters during the 2007 Rugby World Cup – will be leaving behind someone who bears an uncanny resemblance to him.

"Ah, my baby brother," grinned the Bourgoin-born Chabal, referring to Saint André's summer signing. "Luke Abraham, he is like my brother. My little brother."

And, at a distance and in Sale colours, Abraham is a dead spit of Chabal. At 25 Abraham, who joined from Leicester, is six years Chabal's junior, but he arrived at the club already sporting flowing black locks and an equally black beard, so he was halfway to being a clone of Seabass, as Chabal is known.

The good thing for Sale fans is that the French cult hero has taken the youngster under his wing. "I don't do one-to-one training sessions with him," explained Chabal, "but we spend a lot of time talking together, yes. I like the way he plays rugby."

So does Saint André, who could not believe his luck in landing Abraham. "Luke Abraham is a fantastic player," said Saint André, who is also scheduled to leave Sale at the end of the season.

"I watched him last year in his first 12 games for Leicester and he was fantastic but after that he was not picked at all," the director of rugby said.

Saint André foresees a bright future for Abraham. "We have worked a lot on his fitness and I think he is a great prospect for England as an openside flanker."

Sadly, after emerging with a deal of credit from last weekend's thrilling clash with Bath, when he came up against – and was not outplayed by – one England flanker, Michael Lipman, Abraham has lost the chance to display his qualities against another England player, Wasps' Tom Rees, in today's match.

On Christmas Eve Abraham was suspended for two matches by Sale after they had studied a DVD of the Bath match, and his place will be taken by Neil Briggs.

Despite this setback, Chabal will still be able to rest easier knowing that he will be departing the club having left them a near life-size replica of himself as a legacy.