As reported by BBC Radio Manchester's Nathan Middleton earlier today, Sale boss Steve Diamond has confirmed that hooker Tommy Taylor is out until Christmas with an injury sustained in his appearance for England against the Barbarians earlier this summer.
I am personally very high on Tommy Taylor so naturally this news comes as a disappointment. Although experiencing only limited first-team apperances last season due a combination of injury, the incredible form of fellow Hooker Marc Jones and some rumoured off the field problems in Dubai, Taylor at 21 is one of Sale's rising English stars and was named to Stuart Lancaster's 40-man preliminary squad before the tour to New Zealand and was someone I expected to really cement his place in Sale's starting XV for next season.
With Dan Baines gone, Sale's depth at Hooker has suddenly become very shallow. Diamond is obviously looking for a short-term replacement with Bath's recently released Eusebio Guiñazú the current favourite for a deal. I would also suspect this means we may see Sale's sole representative in the last England U20 and Junior World Cup winning squad, Cameron Neild, get more game time at first team level than originally anticipated, especially if further injury problems occur.
We have our mystery signing!
Magnus Lund of course is well-known to Sale fans, having broken into the first team from the academy as a 19 year-old way back in 2002. Lund was with Sale for six years including the sole Premiership Title win in 2006 before leaving for Biarritz in 2008. However with the French club's relegation from the Pro 14 last season, it would appear Lund had a clause in his contract allowing for his release which paved the way for a return back home.
I'm torn on this signing however.
I'll start with the good; Lund is English (good for EQP) and is a quality depth signing.
But that's really it. I'll admit I think adding a player like Lund is an excellent move for depth, giving Sale another option for a depleted back-row and furthering increasing the talent pool Diamond can pick from, however Lund has spent nearly all his career playing Openside Flanker, a position which Sale already have two starting-calibre players in Dan Braid and David Seymour, one of whom, Braid, is already being forced to play out of position at Blindside.
Whilst Lund fits the mould of a traditional 7 more than either Braid or Seymour, I can't help but think Sale should have looked to invest in an area that they didn't already have a lot of starting quality, i.e. Blindside Flanker, No.8 or wing.
Is Lund better than Dave Seymour or Dan Braid, Sale's incumbent flankers? Probably not and considering Seymour and Braid's cohesion and effectiveness playing alongside one another since Braid's arrival last year, it would suggest Lund may not even be first-choice for the club next season.
Also Lund is already 31 and has been playing top-class rugby for 12 years now. The Nathan Hines (wink) of the game are rare, how much does Lund have left in the tank? Will he give Sale a number of years still at the top of his game or has he spent his peak in France and is only on a downward trajectory from here? Again I do not know but it is a concern.
I think also that I am justified in feeling slightly underwhelmed. It is unfair to pin that on Lund who is still a good player, and it is unfair to pin it on Sale who have said nothing about a new signing until their announcement this morning, but Steve Hanley's tweet way back at the start of July promising a "great signing that will shock a few" along with some of the speculation over on the Sale board perhaps had me dreaming slightly too big. Sale being linked to names like Adam Jones, Carl Fearns, Kurtley Beale, Andrew Sheridan etc. set me up, quite frankly, for disappointment. Lund is a decent signing, but not quite the star calibre player, I and I'm sure many others were hoping for.
So to summarise, I like Lund as a depth signing, he offers Sale a more 'traditional' Openside for the team, he's English which helps Sale's EQP cause, will add further competition to a very competitive pack and his experience at the top levels will also help Sale in the inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup campaign. But could Sale have looked to invest in an area where they don't have as much talent already? I believe so especially as its unlikely Lund will play much No.8 or Wing for Sale this season.
A few weeks ago, I attempted to plot Sale's "depth chart" looking at where each squad member is relative to their position in the team, an endeavour that resulted in the above table and the eponymous page on this very blog.
Now with the season yet to get underway and not having a direct insight into the Sale coaching staff's gameplan or models of player evaluation, it goes without saying to heed my estimates with a pinch of salt. However having taken into account the performances of last season, a number of losses to last season's first-choice XV, the influx of new signings along with the continued development of academy and Sale Jets players, I believe I have managed to ascertain a good grasp of what Sale's squad should look like for next season.
Of course this does not factor into account the likely injuries and fluctuating form that will inevitably occur throughout the season, nor indeed the mystery signing promised by one Steve Hanley earlier this month:
Today at 11 am at BT Tower in London, the Aviva Premiership formally announced the 2014-15 schedule of fixtures for the 12 participating teams in this year's competition.
Sale's schedule for the forthcoming season is as follows, home fixtures are in BOLD:
Sat 6 Sep 14:00: Sale Sharks v Bath Rugby
Sat 13 Sep 15:00: Gloucester Rugby v Sale Sharks
Sat 20 Sep 14:00: Sale Sharks v London Welsh
Sat 27 Sep 15:00: Saracens v Sale Sharks
Sun 5 Oct 14:00: Sale Sharks v Wasps (BT Sport)
Sat 11 Oct 15:15: Northampton Saints v Sale Sharks (BT Sport)
Sat 15 Nov 14:00: Sale Sharks v London Irish
Sat 22 Nov 15:00: Harlequins v Sale Sharks
Sun 30 Nov 15:00: Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks
Sat 20 Dec 14:00: Sale Sharks v Exeter Chiefs
Sat 27 Dec 14:00: Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers
Sun 4 Jan 14:00: Wasps v Sale Sharks
Sat 10 Jan 14:00: Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints
Sun 15 Feb 14:30: London Welsh v Sale Sharks
Sat 21 Feb 14:00: Sale Sharks v Saracens
Sat 28 Feb 15:00: Leicester Tigers v Sale Sharks
Sat 7 Mar 15:00: Bath Rugby v Sale Sharks
Sat 28 Mar 14:00: Sale Sharks v Gloucester Rugby
Sun 12 Apr 15:00: London Irish v Sale Sharks
Sat 25 Apr 14:00: Sale Sharks v Harlequins
Sat 9 May 14:00: Sale Sharks v Newcastle Falcons
16/17 May: Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks
Key dates and fixtures
Home Opener: Sat 6 Sep 14:00: Sale Sharks v Bath Rugby
Christmas fixture: Sat 27 Dec 14:00 Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers
Final Home Game of the Season: Sat 9 May 14:00: Sale Sharks v Newcastle Falcons
Final Game of the Season: 16/17 May: Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks
I always find it somewhat meaningless to "analyse" a new set of Premiership fixtures, after all, all we now know for sure is when Sale will play each of the other 11 Premiership teams Home and Away. We are yet unable to take into account the state of teams in regards to injuries, international call-ups or form, so there is no way to know for sure whether Sale have been given a marginally tougher or easier schedule than their competitors.
However there are a few things we can look at:
Think of this as a test post if you will, but just a quick message to say "hi".
My name is Lewis, founder, owner and editor of GreatWhiteRugby, a pet-project of mine to offer independent coverage and analysis of my hometown Aviva Premiership team, Sale Sharks.
I will try to update the blog as frequently as possible, although I can not guarantee a new post every day. Both objective news and subjective analysis will be provided here, covering updates in and around the club as well as opinion pieces on topics both on and off the field.
Comments, feedback and interaction is both welcomed and encouraged and along with a submission form on the adjacent page, we also have a Twitter account which will provide links to all-new content.
Whilst this blog is still in its infancy, I am optimistic it can become a haven of news and analysis for all Sale fans and if not, one should "always look on the bright side of life".