Exams are finished, Sale's season is over, AJ MacGinty is a Pro 12 winner, and three (five if you count Tommy Taylor and Danny Cipriani) Sharks are currently on tour with England. There's your context, here's a bumper, end-of-season edition of the Feeding Time mailbag:
To prevent this becoming an ode to the 2005-06 title-winning side I will restrict the criteria to players who have left Sale in the last three seasons (not including this season's transfer period between January and present).
Pleasantly surprising, considering the pool of talent that has left Manchester in recent years in order to pursue further international recognition, the list is actually quite small.
Henry Thomas could be considered over Brian Mujati / Kieran Longbottom by virtue of his age (24), potential (which has admittedly waned at Bath) and the fact that good English tightheads are like gold dust in the modern game, however the idea that Thomas is a better prop than either at this exact moment is contentious at best.
The impact made by the Bryn Evans - Andrei Ostrikov duo this season meanwhile has softened the blow of losing stalwart locks James Gaskell and Michael Paterson in consecutive seasons, but as much as I'd like to have either back, both would occupy the same 'athletic lock' role as Bryn Evans who was arguably Sale's player of the season this year. It is hard to say definitively then that either currently constitute a significant upgrade over the Kiwi with Paterson's dip in form at Saints and Gaskell's lighter stature in the engine room no longer fitting Sale's forward gameplan.
Probably the only position where there would be a clear upgrade then is Inside Centre with Luther Burrell (currently touring with England in Australia) taking the place of either Sam Tuitupou or Johnny Leota.
Granted I was never Burrell's biggest fan during his single seasons at Sale, but with both Tuitupou and Leota on the wrong side of 30 and neither having held down the no.12 shirt consistently this season, Burrell whose overall game has continued to evolve since joining Northampton and receiving England exposure, would be a tantalising prospect in Paul Deacon's new-look attacking system given his powerful running style and off-load game setting up opportunities for those outside him.
Although the 'targeting top-four' rhetoric from Dimes and the rest of the team every season is encouraging, as is the intriguing recruitment conducted in recent months to bolster a squad whose weakness in recent years has been a lack of viable squad depth, I still think Sale are a couple of pieces away from being able to mount a serious challenge on breaking into the play-off places.
The problem for Sale, as always, is about being able to build onto the squad for next season. In 2015-16, Sale once again finished in the Premiership top-six, guaranteeing themselves participation in the European Champions Cup for the third time in five seasons. Yet despite such an accomplishment, the Sharks now find themselves attempting to replicate that feat without three of their most consistent - and frankly 'best' - players next season; Vadim Cobilas, Tommy Taylor, and Danny Cipriani. A drop-off in performances, whilst not inevitable, would be understandable.
For me this is the crux of the problem. Had Sale been able to retain all their key squad members this season and procure the players they have for next season (Kruger, Pearce, Charnley et al.) I'd be very confident of Sale being able to mount a genuine push for play-off contention. However the realities of the modern game and Sale's checkbook have interfered once again and the Sharks are now dependent on Rob Webber and AJ MacGinty being able to replicate the Herculean efforts of Taylor, Cipriani etc. just to get back into top-six contention again.
Sale's overall squad for 2016-17 is probably marginally better than this season's but until the Sharks can consistently retain the core of their starting XV and then add to it further with the acquisition of star, or at least international, players, I fear it's a vicious cycle of one step forward, one step back. A top-six finish in 2016-17 should be the realistic target, then if Beaumont, Haley, Addison are kept around and further investment in a few key areas transpires, then Sale can consider themselves top-four contenders going into 2017-18.
The AJ Bell, as many Sale fans have made clear since the move in 2012, is not perfect.
But for my perspective, in the three seasons Sale have resided there, there have been palatable improvements in both the stadium infrastructure and atmosphere.
The location is a bit of a hassle regarding public transport links, and the new motorway slip road keeps falling down, but there is no denying the stadium itself is a massive improvement on Edgeley Park which, for all intents and purpouses, was haemorrhaging money and causing significant discord between the club and the Premiership's standards committee.
Fixtures such as Leicester (11,247) and Munster (9,879) last season highlight that big crowds are attainable at the current stadium (even if the Sotic attendance numbers are extremely sporadic) and I would wager that the return of Champions Cup rugby next season will be an inevitable boon for the club and crowd numbers.
Club figures have since admitted that the move to the AJ Bell in 2012 was probably rushed, but as those who attend week-in, week-out can attest, practically all of its teething problems have now been successfully ironed out. It's now just a case of shedding the negative image the AJ Bell has with absentee fans.
One of the Premiership's most consistent performers this season having largely removed the decision-making and kicking errors from his game, Haley has not only already won himself a spot with the England Saxons' tour to South Africa, but he finds himself the beneficiary of England's relatively shallow fullback depth.
Alex Goode has been one of Europe's premium players this season and Mike Brown is still immersed in the battle for the England 15 jersey but beyond that, aside from maybe Chris Pennell, nobody comes close to matching Haley's current ability and future potential.
With Brown now 30 and Goode 28, Haley (21) is very much the long-term successor to England's fullback spot if his impressive form for Sale can continue and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in England's 2017 Six Nations squad.
There's a couple.
Josh Charnley is a fascinating case - as are all rugby league converts - since the potential is there for him to turn into a legitimate game-changing presence in the Sale backline with his blend of pace, strength, and finishing prowess.
Junadre Kruger meanwhile has all the attributes of a top-tier lock, including an impressive ball-carrying and off-loading game. Watching how he meshes in the Sale engine room will be very exciting to watch for the impact he will have on both the Sharks's scrum and in the loose.
Finally, AJ MacGinty, despite his Pro 12 winning turn as Connacht's fly-half this season, still remains a relatively unknown quantity. MacGinty's flat, efficient passing, enthusiasm to take the ball to the line, and decision-making have all impressed me watching the Pro 12 in recent weeks but it remains to be seen just how effective he can be in the Premiership. If he can replicate his Pro 12 form and offer a more consistent kicking option than Cipriani did, he'll be a fan favourite in no time.
Addison's omission from any manner of England duty this summer was an unfortunate consequence of Eddie Jones' slightly perplexing decision to take Marland Yarde on tour to Australia. Yarde, who has been outplayed by all of Addison, Ashton, Wade, Rokoduguni, and Lewington this season meant all of the above were pushed down a slot in the England pecking order leaving Addison out in the cold.
Realistically, if Addison can continue his dominant form for Sale next season, England recognition will not be far behind, but perhaps reigning in the monstrous, jumping-out-of-the-line hits, that, whilst exciting, can often be exploited by waiting defences, might be one way to demonstrate a more astute decision-making process in defence on Addison's part.
There is a place for that type of aggressive defence for a certainty, but considering Christian Wade is still unable to crack the England lineup solely due to concerns over his defence, Addison could easily surpass him and others on the England depth chart next season by showing a more cerebral approach to wing defence.
Having not seen either play in the flesh, I feel this is quite a difficult question to tackle. I am sure after a couple of Premiership rounds it'll emerge just how suitable Mugford and/or Morton are for active Premiership duty but until that point it is still a major question mark in the Sharks' squad.
Mugford strikes me as a player in the vein of Joe Ford when he signed for Sale in 2013 - good Championship player with some experience of a Premiership club atmosphere but now it's sink-or-swim time regarding his status as a top-tier-calibre player. Not having a dependable veteran like Nick MacLeod around as a 'safety net' however is a big risk especially if Mugford fails to make the grade.
Morton meanwhile is still probably at least a year away from being a Premiership player although hopefully he'll be handed the reigns during the LV Cup to amass some top-flight experience to show what he's capable of.
Overall I would characterise carrying Mugford and Morton as the two fly-halves behind MacGinty as an extremely high-risk, high-reward situation.
With David Seymour and Magnus Lund turning 32 and 33 around the start of the 2016-17 season, it is a logical step to assume Sale might have to start looking for a long-term replacement at the openside position.
Luckily Sale have two already on the books.
Twin brothers Ben and Tom Curry are only 18 but have already been touted as future England internationals by the RFU's age group staff. Although both are most comfortable at openside, either can switch to blindside in a pinch with Tom also having spent time at No.8 Both signed deals with the Sale academy last month and could feasibly debut for the Sharks' first team as early as 2017-18.
There is obviously still an incredibly long way to go for Ben and Tom in making it as professional rugby players but with talented individuals making an impact on the game at increasingly younger ages (see: Maro Itoje, Henry Mallinder et al.) I would not be surprised to see the Curry brothers fast-tracked by the Sharks coaching staff into top-flight competition sooner rather than later.
I'll admit I did consider at one point last season George Ford to be England's premier fly-half, however the contrasting fortunes of Ford and Bath compared to Owen Farrell and Saracens this season have caused me significantly revise my opinion.
Whilst Ford's form has plunged off a cliff amongst a number of other Bath-related disappointments this season and there now existing rumours he might be unhappy at his club side due to his father's (not undeserving) firing, Farrell has guided Saracens to both a domestic and European championship - becoming the first side to win the double championship since Wasps in 2003-04.
Farrell's influence was also particularly notable during the Six Nations where he played a prominent role at Inside Centre alongside Ford; it quickly became clear that despite Ford's incumbent status, Farrell was still highly esteemed in Eddie Jones' mind, especially given the latter's controlled performances in a role he has not been asked to play since his England U20 days.
With Ford's dire 1-from-7 performance as England fly-half against Wales last weekend especially alarming in comparison to Farrell's 5-from-6 effort in leading Saracens to a second consecutive Premiership title, it is clear that momentum is fully in Farrell's corner in the battle for the starting fly-half jersey against Australia.
Finally, my estimate of the England backline for the first test against Australia:
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