Team: Sale Sharks
Coach: Mike Brewer
Home ground: Edgeley Park
Aston Croall (prop, Harlequins), Rob Miller (fly-half/centre, Newcastle), Matty James (Manawatu), Kyle Tonetti (Leinster), Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club), Wame Lawaravu (Parma), Paul Williams (Auckland Blues), Karena Wihongi (Bourgoin), Mikaele Pesamino (Auckland), Chris Brightwell (Birmingham/Solihull), Iain Thornley (Wigan Warriors), Nic Rouse (Nottingham), Rhys Crane (Bath), James Lewis (Coventry).
Luke Abraham (flanker, Lyon), Brent Cockbain (lock, released), David Doherty (utility back, released), Dafydd James (wing, released), Rob O’Donnell (prop, Rotherham), Oriol Ripol (wing, Worcester), Dean Schofield (lock, Toulon), Lee Thomas (centre, Lyon), Richard Wigglesworth (scrum-half, Saracens), Mark Atkinson (London Wasps), Ryan Glynn (Northampton Saints), Ed Styles (Loughborough Students), Alex Shaw (Coventry), James Jones (released)
Any team with a backbone consisting of Andrew Sheridan, Charlie Hodgson and Mark Cueto ought to be taken seriously, and regardless of all the change that’s been happening at Sale, no visiting team will take anything for granted.
There’s something not quite right about the club at the moment, arguably stemming from Jason Robinson’s departure and Mike Brewer coming in all guns blazing. Quotes like “I will ask those guys [current squad members] where they see themselves fitting in as I may be bringing in new players and they won’t get much rugby” won’t necessarily endear him to the squad.
Plenty of players have come in and they’ll take time to gel, and Hodgson will be missing for the first month of the season so they won’t have his guidance to help them through that transition. With fixtures against Saracens, Harlequins and Bath in that month they may find themselves at the bottom of the pile early on with a big mountain to climb.
One to watch:
Slightly unusually, we’ve picked the coach Mike Brewer as the one to watch at Sale this season – much will depend on how the squad responds to his direction and whether he can pull off a Brendan Venter rather than a Fabio Capello.
We think Sale will be involved in a two-horse relegation battle, and will edge it to finish 11th.