The widely-spread rumors that preluded the departure of Sale head coach Bryan Redpath to become Director Of Rugby of Yorkshire Carnegie with immediate effect, ensured that when, back in April, that news did indeed become official following the Championship club's announcement, it came as little surprised to the rugby world and Sale faithful. What was more surprising however was the manner in which Steve Diamond and the rest of the Sale coaching brass opted to react to the newly formed void in the Sharks' backroom staff. Instead of immediately replacing Redpath with a short term hire to fill in for the former Sale scrum half's duties for the remaining five games of the season, Diamond instead chose to field Redpath's responsibilities by committee and wait until the summer to bring in a permanent option as what Diamond referred to as an 'Attack and Kicking Coach'.
On Thursday evening the identity of the newest Sale Sharks coach became known with official announcements from both Sale Sharks and Wigan Warriors that the Warriors' assistant coach Paul Deacon was to switch codes to join Sale as their Attack and Kicking Coach ahead of the 2015-16 season.
Whilst it is premature to estimate the impact Deacon COULD have on a Sale attack that, at times last season, faltered against the toughest opposition, on paper the addition of Deacon should prove to be an inspired one.
Deacon, still only 35 years old, enjoyed a storied playing career in Rugby League as a member of both Bradford Bulls and his hometown Wigan Warriors before joining the Warriors coaching staff as an assistant to Shane Wane in 2011. In addition, Deacon has extensive experience in international League management having served as part of Steve McNamara's coaching staff with the English National Team as an assistant since 2013.
Deacon's appointment as part of the Sale hierarchy is a great fit for a number of reasons. Not only does Deacon already have multiple years of coaching in the very same role Sale will employ him in, his track record with Wigan is phenomenal with the Warriors twice leading the league in points scored (2012, 2014) since he took over as Attack coach with a Super League and Challenge Cup Winners’ medal as a coach (2013), to boot.
Additionally as the modern game of Union continues to increasingly incorporate League players, coaches and strategy in the never-ending search for a distinct competitive advantage over their opponents, Sale's utilisation of their unique position as the sole Premiership rugby club within the hotbed of Rugby League that is the North-West, has allowed them to secure the arrival of a coach of the ilk and stature of Deacon who's cross-code switch will have raised some eyebrows throughout English Rugby.
Deacon's arrival mirrors that of Mike Forshaw's - who incidentally was a former teammate of Deacon's at Bradford - an appointment that has won universal adulation from across the Rugby world following the dramatic turnaround of the Sharks' defensive efficiency that Forshaw has orchestrated since joining Sale before the 2013-14 season as a Defence and Tackling coach. If Deacon is able to make a similar impact to that of his cross-code predecessor, Steve Diamond will once again be vindicated for making a somewhat unconventional dip into the (Rugby League) managerial market.
On the face of it, Deacon's appointment looks to be another astute choice on the part of Steve Diamond who now adds an international renowned attacking coach to his growing stable of experienced, intuitive and forward-thinking specialist coaches.
Watching how Deacon employs attacking schemes and stratagem tested and popularized in Super League to bring out the very best of the attacking ability of the likes of Ciprinai, Addison, Haley and Arscott amongst others during the 2015/16 season should be fascinating to watch, and Deacon's expertise and experience in his specialist area should ensure going forward that at all times this season Sale's attack will be more coordinated, organised and incisive than in previous seasons where, in close games, their inability to penetrate defences with above average linespeed has been their undoing. The nature of Deacon’s experience against Super League defences which naturally come off the line and close off space quicker than their Union counterparts should turn this notable weakness of Sale’s into a match-winning strength.
Also worth watching is the effect Deacon's coaching has on Sale's Fly-Halves, more specifically, their kicking. Deacon should refine Cipriani's sometimes overenthusiastic kicking from hand and should also help Joe Ford's placekicking which faltered badly down there stretch of last season most notably against Harlequins where his two missed conversions arguably costing Sale the game.
In the end, the delay in finding a replacement Head/Attacking coach for Bryan Redpath may have been longer than anticipated for both the Sale Sharks clubhouse and their fans, but on paper it looks like Sale's patience has been rewarded with a very astute addition in Paul Deacon.