Sale Sharks is another team that have seen several key players depart, and Jon Hobbs previews their Guinness Premiership campaign.
Ben Cohen (Brive)
Sisa Koyamaibole (Toulon)
Gavin Kerr (Edinburgh)
David Seymour (Saracens)
Mahonri Schwalger (Scarlets)
David Bishop (Ospreys)
Marika Vakacegu (Cornish Pirates)
Jack Forster (Gloucester)
Luke McAlister (Auckland Blues)
Jason White (Clermont Auvergne)
Lionel Faure (Clermont Auvergne)
Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (Toulon)
Sebastien Bruno (Toulon)
Rory Lamont (Toulon)
Sebastian Chabal (Racing-Metro)
Dave Ward (Cornish Pirates)
Ross Davies (Ospreys)
Michael Hills (London Welsh)
Rudi Keil (released)
Since 2000, Sale Sharks are the only club to have broken the Leicester/Wasps monopoly of Premiership titles with their sole victory in 2006. However, whilst the other two clubs have created consistent squads achieving regular titles, Sale haven’t managed to stay in top form for any length of time.
Unfortunately, this season Sale have undergone another major overhaul in coaching and playing staff with Philippe Saint-Andre leaving to coach Toulon and taking three of the Sharks’ best players with him: Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Sebastian Bruno and Rory Lamont. Other notable departures include their talisman, Sebastian Chabal, as well as Luke McAlister, Jason White and Lionel Faure.
When fit last season, McAlister was the best player in the competition, so losing him will be the greatest disadvantage for Sale. He relieved the pressure from Charlie Hodgson, created tries, scored them and kicked monster penalties.
When comparing the players brought in it is very difficult to see how Sale will be able to compete this season. Cohen, Schwalger, Seymour and Koyamaibole are decent players but pale by comparison to those that have departed. On the positive side, Kingsley Jones remains at the club which will maintain some stability and bringing in Jason Robinson to the coaching staff should keep the backs fresh and provide some spark.
However, overall I don’t think Sale will be in contention for the play-offs come the end of the season and may well find themselves in mid-table limbo.