With Sale, as part of their two week hiatus from Kings Of The North preseason action, currently away training in Lisbon, there is little to no new information for poor writers such as myself to fixate upon.
Therefore using this break from traditional preparations ahead of a new season, lets take a look at the upcoming 2015-16 season and make some predictions for how our beloved rugby club rooted in South Manchester will fare across the Premiership, European Challenge Cup, and beyond.
If you're interested in amassing evidence as to why my word and opinions mean absolute jack, do take a look at the predictions I made for Sale's 2014-15 season here. I mean 3 out of 5 ain't bad but Christ, lack at that horrendous formatting.
Sale will win the Kings Of The North competition:
Two wins out of two, 10 points in the bag, 74 points scored, only 27 points conceded, and two seemingly less interested sides in Newcastle and Leicester, suggest that despite not even being halfway through the inaugural edition of the Kings Of The North competition, its Sale's to lose. One more win either against Leicester away or Newcastle at home in the final round all but guarantees Sale's first 'silverware' since 2006.
Sale have five representatives in England's first EPS/Saxons squads of 2016:
Perhaps quite a bold claim considering Sale have exactly 0 representatives in the 31-man England squad that will kick off the 2015 World Cup against Fiji on Friday, but hear me out:
Whether it is Stuart Lancaster or - should the Yorkshireman's preparations spectacularly crash and burn on home soil in the next four weeks - somebody new at the helm of English rugby in 2016, their focus will undoubtedly be set upon the 2019 Japanese World Cup and initiating the transition from the elder statesman of this current creme de la crop of English players to a new, youthful, and hungry batch of premier English talent with the 2016 Six Nations a perfect jumping off point for say, Richard Wigglesworth, Geoff Parling and David Wilson.
As I've reiterated many a time before, Sale's current squad setup is poised to build a team for this season and beyond around a core of young, English talent. Ross Harrison, Tommy Taylor, Josh Beaumont, Will Addison and Mike Haley are all already established starters in a full-strength Sharks side and will play a prominent role in every Sharks fixture between now and the new year - giving them a full half season's worth of games in the Premiership and Europe to build up an impressive resume of form for Lancaster or whomever else to muse upon.
It is also pertinent to remember that Harrison, Taylor and Beaumont have all already been selected for England invitational duty since Lancaster took charge in 2011, all pinpointed as potential regulars for England in the near future, see: post World Cup. That is even before mentioning Mr Cipriani who was inches away from being Sale's sole English representative at this year's World Cup and who could find his international fortunes buoyed should a less conservatively-inclined coach than Stuart Lancaster be in charge.
My prediction of five sees Tommy Taylor, Josh Beaumont and Danny Cipriani all named in a slightly-less scrutinised England's Elite squad for the 2016 Six Nations, regardless of if Lancaster remains in charge or not. Ross Harrison and Mike Haley will also be selected to represent the England Saxons when they turn out to play their annual late-winter exhibition fixtures.
Will Addison doesn't stay totally injury-free but is Sale's leading try-scorer:
Despite another injury-hit season that saw Addison only available to suit up in 12 games, the 23 year-old Cumbrian flyer impressed mightily in his limited appearances in 2014-15 racking up three tries amidst a number of exciting and creative attacking displays mixed in with some airtight tackling and defensive work.
With multiple career-threatening injuries now a firm two years behind him, Addison has had since mid-February to rest and rehabilitate himself ready for the upcoming season with the club adamant Addison finally has a clean bill of health for the first time in nearly three years.
It seems like every season since making his debut in 2012 that I've tipped Addison to finally stay injury-free for an entire year and make good on the immense potential he has so sporadically had the opportunity to flash.
However this year I'm not going down the naively optimistic route, instead opting to face some harsh pragmatism. Addison probably won't stay free from injury all season as unfortunately for all his ability Addison seems destined to forever be a nasty knock away from retirement. So instead I'm tempering my expectations and saying that Addison will play around 23 or 24 games for Sale this season, injuries permitting, but will finally begin to make inroads into forging a successful domestic and international career racking up 12 tries - and some serious chemistry playing on Danny Cipriani's shoulder in Paul Deacon's revitalised attacking gameplan - to finish the season as Sale's top try scorer.
Sale finish 9th in the Premiership, Quarter-finalists in the Challenge Cup
I've already written extensively about Sale and their predicted fortunes in the Premiership this year so forgive me if I don't elaborate too extensively on my predicted 9th place finish. In short, even after finally confirming Brian Mujati's arrival, I still harbour serious doubts that Sale have enough manpower in their squad to mount a serious top-six challenge, although of course I'd be delighted to be proven wrong.
Vis-a-vis the Challenge Cup however, I do believe Sale have a real chance to qualify out of their pool especially if their opponents become more concerned with a hypothetical decline in domestic form which has been an issue in the past predominately for the competing French sides on occasion i.e. Biarritz two years ago.
However the ridiculous update to the second-tier European competition's format that sees the 9th, 10th and 11th best Champions Cup teams 'parachute' directly into the Challenge Cup's quarter-final stages means that although progress out of the pool stages is possible for Sale, they could struggle mightily to get any further beyond that should they be forced into playing the likes of Ulster or Racing Metro in the next round.
Ross Harrison is Sale's starting Loosehead Prop before new year:
Since his Sharks debut in 2005, Loosehead Prop Eifon Lewis-Roberts has been one of Sale's most consistent performers in his two spells at the club (2005-2011 and 2012-Present, punctured by a year in Toulon) and was deservingly given a two-year extension to his current contract in January of this year which will see him contracted to play on as a Shark until 2017.
However despite the experience and longevity Lewis-Roberts offers to Sale, matters of a loosehead nature are coming to a head. Eifon is now 34 years-old, and although his exceedingly ample frame never made him the most mobile of players (although he's still deceptively quick and spry for someone weighing a shade under 21 stone), its clear he is no longer the destructive scrummaging unit of 2011 on the pitch that saw him become the focus of the mega-riches that Toulon had to offer, for one season at least.
Indeed last season Eifon Lewis-Roberts was the most penalised Loosehead in the entire league and although he is still a serviceable prop with the occasional flash of scrummaging dominance, he is no longer consistent enough to justify being given 60 minutes of gametime a week come hell-or-highwater.
And this is where Ross Harrison comes in. Having already ran out for his boyhood club 97 times, Harrison has already amassed considerable experience as Lewis-Roberts' understudy and at 23, is at the perfect age to take over full-time duty as Sale's starting Loosehead prop for both now and the future.
With Brian Mujati's arrival finally signalling the end to Harrison's bit-part conversion to Tighthead that Steve Diamond initiated as a last-resort following the monumental disappointment that was to be Alberto de Marchi's time as a Shark, Harrison is now clear to focus all his efforts on becoming the Loosehead that Stuart Lancaster has already tabbed as a potential future England international.
On Saturday Harrison stood out as astonishingly lean following a summer of hard-training and that newly-formed mobility, combined with the strength that saw him break Andrew Sheridan's record as the strongest player ever to pull on a Sale shirt, should make Harrison a devastating force in both the loose and the tight for Sale next season as he finally wins the starting shirt of one of Sale's longest-tenured players.