Rugby, more so than many other sports, is a team game, one where a team can only be successful if all facets of the game are working in tandem - and working better than their opponents' to boot.
However it would be folly to suggest that there are not a few key individuals in any squad, let alone Sale Sharks, who are uniquely important to the team's success due to their relative importance in key areas of the game, players whose individual performances a team's success hinge upon.
So who are those players for Sale Sharks, or more precisely: which member of Sale Sharks will be the most important in determining any success Sale have as a team, this coming 2014-15 season? Here I take a look at a few candidates.
Earlier today Sale confirmed the signing of Georgian Hooker Shalva Mamukashvili in what is likely their final bit of transfer business this summer. A current international and first choice hooker for Georgia, Mamukashvili has signed from Armia Tbilisi, a team competing in the domestic Georgian Championship.
Personally I think this is a great bit of business for Sale Sharks. As long as the work permits are finalised which, admittedly, Sale have had trouble with in the past (Samoan flyer Mikaele Pesamino anyone?), Mamukashvili is excellent cover at Hooker for Sale, not just whilst Tommy Taylor recovers from injury but when he returns as well; the signing of Mamukashvilli helps provide excellent depth at the position even as third choice.
This also lightens the prospective load youngster Cameron Neild would have had to carry as Sale's only other fully fit Hooker aside from Marc Jones. Rather than having their hand forced into playing a raw, 19-year old in potentially key situations across all competitions, Sale can instead turn to a more polished player in Mamukashvilli who additionally has international pedigree and experience to boot.
I have no doubt in my mind that I will stumble upon this very article a year or so from now and be ashamed of how widely I shanked my predictions, but as with meaningful rugby still four-or-so weeks away and a number of people on Twitter suggesting I do so, what better time to make some predictions for Sale Sharks’ upcoming 2014-15 season.
An important aspect for any club, but especially so for one as relatively small and frugal as Sale Sharks, is the conveyor belt of talent into the first team squad from the club's Academy and A-League squad.
Therefore one pertinent question to ask before the season is who will be able to successfully jump from the Sale's feeder system into contention for the match-day 23.
Last season Sale were actually very lucky with the small amount of injuries sustained to their first-choice players and as a result of the down season they had prior to last year's campaign they were also able to avoid losing many to service in the international windows. Consequently, opportunities for youngsters to garner first-team experience were limited at best.
I doubt however that that's the case this season. Established players have been lost from the first-team (Peel, Gaskell etc.) and many of their replacements are current international representatives for their respective nations, (Di Marchi/McLean, Cusiter..) meaning during the Autumn Internationals and Six Nations, key members of the first team will be lost. In addition, Sale are part of the inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup, the new top-tier of European domestic rugby which will cause their squad to be stretched further than in previous years. This season depth will be an absolute necessity and I believe this will translate into playing time for many of the Jets and Academy players.
So who benefits and who is ready to make the jump? I have detailed here who I think has a reasonable chance of accomplishing such a feat and I have them ranked in order of likely game-time.