Laurence Pearce Signs for Sale Sharks / Tom Brady to Join Leicester Tigers / Johnny Leota Signs two-year Extension
Due to educational commitments this week I have been a bit slow in responding to news emanating from the club so forgive me for bundling three bits of news together.
This week, two long-rumoured deals both involving Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers were officially completed. First, long-serving Sale winger Tom Brady, who graduated from the Sharks academy in 2010(?) was announced to be leaving for Leicester, likely as a replacement for either Gonzalo Camacho or Miles Benjamin. Coming back in the opposite direction will be No.8 Laurence Pearce, a former rugby league convert and ex-Rothertham Titan whose arrival bolsters Sale's options at the position beyond Josh Beaumont who is likely to be away with England again next season.
The signing of Pearce probably also signals the impending departure of sparsely-used No.8 Vilhami Fihaki whose contract expires at the end of the season as Steve Diamond looks to supplement his core of trusted players with additional depth to make a sustained run at the top-six and beyond in 2016-17.
It is always disappointing when home-grown players opt to leave and Brady, a member of the Sharks centurion club with 109 appearances, has been one of the few ever-presents in what has been a transitory six seasons for Sale - Mike Brewer was head coach and Edgeley Park was still the home venue when Brady debuted!
But we must recognise that Brady's departure is not like that of Tommy Taylor or Henry Thomas - swooped up by bigger clubs to further international aspirations and be paid the big bucks to the disappointment of Sale. Brady has found game time severely limited this season having dropped to a clear fourth choice at winger behind Will Addison, Tom Arscott, and newcomer Nev Edwards, and there's a sense that Sale won't consider this the monumental loss they felt with Taylor, or Gaskell, or Miller etc.
In short, Brady is leaving for additional game-time - which I'm not sure he'll get at Leicester - and Sale have three wingers who can all offer attributes Brady can't to soften the blow. Unfortunate but hardly detrimental to Sale's fortunes next season.
Pearce meanwhile is a superb signing who ticks all the boxes I look for when discussing potential new signings for; young (25), English (therefore EQP), lured from a bigger club where gametime is limited (Leicester) and in this instance a powerful ball-carrier who will really add some depth to the Sharks' backrow.
With Dan Braid retiring, Vilhami Fihaki likely to leave and the future of Mark Easter up in the air, Pearce is an astute pre-emptive move that gives Sale a genuine 1-2 punch at Number 8, adds another formidable ball-carrier to a pack that has historically lacked that skill, and also gives Sale another option to replace Braid with at Blindside Flanker. Although I believe Pearce will see the majority of minutes in relieving Beaumont and adding some abrasiveness off the bench, this is a great signing that really boosts Sale's rotation for next season.
Finally, on Thursday morning Sale announced their latest re-signing; centre Johnny Leota.
Leota was one of Steve Diamond's first signings at the club in 2011 joining from Manawatu in New Zealand and has also made over 100 appearances from Sale; his centenary appearance coming against Exeter last month.
The 32-year-old has impressed this season in combination with Sam James; the Samoan's power and ball-carrying nous working well in tandem with James' more methodical and cerebral approach, and on form it should be the midfield pairing to end the season. Able to play both inside and outside centre, Leota extending his deal is doubly important with the rumours swirling around Sam Tuitupou's possibly retirement - Leota gives Sale security and depth at both midfield positions for the next two seasons alongside Mark Jennings and the aforementioned James.
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