Summer internationals are over and club preseason has begun. Let's take a look at some of the issues surrounding Sale (and the country).
Whilst signing AJ MacGinty, in what will be only his second full season as a professional, to replace the outgoing Danny Cipriani is a risk in and of itself, MacGinty has shown enough for Connacht and for the USA Eagles this summer to suggest he has enough quality, especially factoring in the improvement of the likes of Mike Haley, Sam James and Will Addison outside him, to help Sale mount another serious challenge for the top-six again this season.
However should said apocalyptic scenario transpire to leave Dan Mugford and Tom Morton as Sale's only fit fly-halves then yes Sale would be in serious trouble, regardless of how well the pack or backline functions. Mugford has, as of this moment, yet to prove his worth as a Premiership-calibre player whilst Morton is yet to even make his full first-team debut.
Both will be handy options to have behind MacGinty throughout the season, but there is a clear separation in the pecking order here; should MacGinty be ruled out for the season, don't be surprised to see Dimes dip back into the transfer market.
Eastmond x James.
Although there have been concerns mooted over the level of physicality this tandem would bring to the Sale midfield - especially after years of having two bruisers in Sam Tuitupou and Johnny Leota as the two incumbent centres - I'd be willing to gamble that Eastmond and James' combined playmaking talents would far outweigh any suggested defensive frailties.
Eastmond and James would offer Sale two premier creative talents in the backline alongside a more physical and abrasive fly-half in MacGinty, who showed for Connacht this season he is content to move the ball along the line quickly to the more mercurial attacking players outside him in what I would suggest would quickly become a devastating 10-12-13 axis.
With Eastmond and James as starters, this still leaves Sale with Tuitupou and Leota - both of whom can facilitate to the outside or straighten up in the line as needed - and Mark Jennings, a similarily powerful running option and heir apparent to Tuitupou. Having five centres in the first team who can cover the two centre spots is a luxury Sale have not had for years.
I feel (fear) that the usual European pragmatism will be in effect this season for Sale in the Champions Cup.
Whilst I fully expect to see Sale field a full-strength lineup for the tournament's opening rounds (especially the home games against Saracens and Toulon), and I do believe Sale have a chance of finally improving their future seeding by finishing third in the group (over the Scarlets), one is forced to accept the reality that barring some miraculous results, Sale are likely to be out of contention for pool progression by the latter rounds of fixtures.
Although the first team will likely be used to target the series with Scarlets for the third spot, if there's nothing left to play for in the final rounds away to Saracens or Toulon, I could easily envisage a heavily rotated side in order to rest the starters for more valuable fixtures in the Premiership.
In short; full-strength sides for the three home games and probably away to Scarlets, with the trips to Toulon and Saracens used as the time to blood the youngsters.
Whilst I am aware that this particular question is in jest, the idea of a fan referendum to determine the day and times of kick-offs is actually a good idea, especially since new owner Simon Orange's implication that Friday evenings could be revisited was met with extreme disapproval from a significant proportion of fans.
Unfortunately no kick-off slot, be it Friday, Saturday or Sunday is going to appease all fans universally but handing the power to the supporter majority would be an easy way for the club to buy face and settle the matter once and for all.
Alas Orange's other assertion - that a club survey returned Friday night as the optimum time for supporters - suggests that the decision will ultimately be determined by the needs of the corporate supporters of the club since no (non-corporate) fan I have spoken to told me they had participated in this mystery survey.
Fans who attend in the corporate hospitality boxes are still fans and corporate backing has had a substantial impact on keeping the club afloat in recent years, but if Sale want this matter resolved permanently, some transparency with the entire supporter base is necessary - a large scale survey (referendum) is not a bad idea.
Mike Haley suffered a dislocated shoulder in the England Saxons' second fixture against South Africa last month but by all reports he should be back in time for the start of the season. Whether he'll be fully fit the opening round of fixtures I am unsure, but he should be cleared for participation at least. Josh Beaumont is likewise expected to be fit in time for the new season with Tom Arscott's return also on timetable.