We start this week's mailbag with a question I am three weeks late in answering, so first and foremost, my apologies to The Keg. We're now a further two games into the season since Keg offered this question but with Sale having only gained an additional three points (a draw and a bonus point loss to Newcastle and Gloucester respectively) my prediction that Sale will find themselves mired in the lower mid-table has only further been vindicated.
The Sharks currently lie in 8th in the Premiership (albeit only two points off Wasps in 6th), but with a turn around in Bath's middling form inevitable, it's a lot easier to envision Sale dropping further down the standings than mounting a serious top-six challenge in the coming weeks especially since the Sharks have been guilty of failing to see out three games in three weeks they should've won by every metric.
Neither Joe Ford or Nick MacLeod have managed to impress in (admittedly) limited game-time this season. Or for any period in the last three years for that matter. Cipriani is Sale's poster boy and probably only star attraction but his form this season has been hit-and-miss, not aided by the fact that there is no competition for his No.10 jersey.
Tom Morton is an interesting prospect who could see time with the England U20s this season but he's still clearly at least a year, if not two, away from being a Premiership calibre player.
In my mind Sale's best course of action would be to let both MacLeod and Ford leave at the end of the season (I believe both are out of contract?) use their combined money to look for a backup fly-half with a reputation as a metronomic kicker first and foremost, and bring Morton to the periphery of the first team akin to what Sale are doing with James Mitchell at scrum-half.
On current form, absolutely.
One of the biggest problems plaguing the third-worst attack in the Premiership this season has been Chris Cusiter's inability to produce quick ball for the likes of Danny Cipriani, and increasingly Sam James, to exploit. On multiple occasions against Newcastle a fortnight ago I counted it taking over ten seconds for Cusiter to deliver the ball from the base of the ruck, either to the first receiver, or to produce a box-kick. Not only does this allow ample time for the opposition defence to reset and get back into position along the defensive line, it also presents more opportunities for Sale's opponents to pressure the ruck defence and force a turnover or kick the ball loose - remember Cusiter's horror-show against Northampton?
Peter Stringer on the other hand has been superb in facilitating Sale's attack when given the opportunity to start. The differences in Cusiter and Stringer's box-kicking and ability around the fringes, are at this point negligible, what is separating them is Stringer's ability to organise and accelerate Sale's attack when the Sharks have good attacking territory. I need to crunch the stats properly but at a cursory glance Sale's passing numbers increase substantially with Stringer on the field as opposed to Cusiter with the number of kicks in play from the scrum-half position decreasing at a similar rate.
There's plenty of talent coming through the Sale pipeline at the moment - James Mitchell, Ciaran Parker, and George Nott are all current or former England U20s representatives - but Cameron Neild is a player I have my eye on.
With rumours abounding of Tommy Taylor's possible departure to Wasps and Neil Briggs's up-and-down form since returning to the club this summer, 21-year-old Neild could very well find himself starting hooker elect next season.
Whether it would get to that should Taylor leave I'm not sure, but Neild has represented England at every age group so far and has also already turned out for Sale at openside flanker giving him a second avenue into Sale's first team proper. Extremely athletic and mobile, Neild encapsulates much of the 'new breed' model of rugby players and will likely be a matchday 23 regular by next season, regardless of whether Taylor stays or goes.
Granted I have not heard any concrete information on the matter, outside perhaps of ex-Sale prop Mick Collins' Twitter feed but all indications seem to suggest a potential sale of the club is being sought by Brian Kennedy.
For all the good he does in keeping the club afloat - for which he must be commended - Kennedy now lives in the USA and rarely attends home matches. It doesn't take a genius to estimate that Sale Sharks are no longer his no.1 priority.
Anybody have Sheikh Mansour's number?
Well when a Mummy and a Daddy aren't sure if they love each other anymore but want to preserve their marriage..
Lewis Hughes is aware that his article introductions are getting shorter each week. Follow @SharkTankRugby on Twitter for more news, analysis, and opinions.