Saint-André arrives on mission to stir up Sale

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The industrial espresso machine is on its way to Edgeley Park; a new forwards coach will not be far behind. Philippe Saint-André, coffee fanatic and one of the more extraordinary figures in the weird and wonderful world of sporting management, has formally agreed a three-year deal at Sale, where he takes over as director of rugby with immediate effect.

He will work alongside Jim Mallinder, who used to be director of rugby but is on the point of accepting a new position in the Frenchman's shadow. It will be a marriage made either in heaven or hell.

Quite why Brian Kennedy, the ambitious and increasingly impatient Sale owner, felt driven to interfere with the back-room structure remains a mystery to many Sale followers. Saint-André, who improved the fortunes of both Gloucester and Bourgoin but left both under a cloud, will be in charge of strategy and recruitment, and will have the final say on selection. If past form is any guide, he will also do his share of coaching.

Mallinder has yet to apply pen to paper on his own three-year coaching deal but says he is happy to work with Saint-André. Saint-André is keen to leave Mallinder in charge for the rest of the season, while he carries out a leisurely inspection of his new domain. "I will take three months to look and analyse," said the former French wing and captain, who rattled up 33 tries in 69 Tests. "It would be a big mistake to change everything; there are a lot of good things in place at Sale."

He will, however, move quickly to secure the services of a forwards coach. Steve Diamond, who worked alongside Mallinder for two and a half seasons, is off to Saracens next term - which annoyed Sale so much that they flatly rejected his offer to stay on for the rest of the campaign. Saint-André linked up with the fearsome former prop from Agen, Laurent Seigne, at Gloucester and Bourgoin, but there is no immediate suggestion that Seigne is contemplating another stint on this side of the Channel.

Saint-André will ruffle a few feathers; if he can take on the arch-traditionalists of Gloucester and survive for the best part of three seasons, he will make short work of the comfort zone at Sale. Kennedy has appointed him to do just that. "I am absolutely confident we have the right man," he said. "Jim has done a tremendous job in taking the club to the top half of the Premiership. Now, we want to compete at the highest level in Europe. Together, Philippe and Jim will be formidable."

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