As first revealed (sort of) by The Shark Tank on Sunday morning, Sale have completed the signing of Romanian international prop Alexandru Țăruș on a two-year-contract, the club announced Monday afternoon.
Țăruș, a specialist tighthead but also capable of playing at loosehead, has been capped sixteen times by the Mighty Oaks, featuring in both the 2015 World Cup and Romania’s victorious 2017 Rugby Europe Championship campaign in which Țăruș started at tighthead in the pivotal deciding fixture against Georgia.
Țăruș will move to the Sharks from Béziers in the French ProD2 where he has spent the 2016-17 season after stints with Bucharest Wolves and Timișoara Saracens.
Truthfully, neither I nor many non-Romanian rugby fans will know quite what to expect from the signing of Țăruș, but the 27-year-old’s credentials earmark him as another low-key pickup with the potential to become a pack cornerstone in the mould of former fan favourite Vadim Cobilas.
Standing at a shade over 6ft and tipping the scales at 19st 7lbs, Țăruș will certainly bring the physicality and ballast necessary for a Sale pack next year whose preferred second row pairing could prove mobile but relatively lightweight and which will require a powerful front-row to give the team a crucial platform at the set-piece.
As the starting international tighthead for a country renowned for its scrummaging conveyor belt, it is at the scrum where Țăruș’ influence should immediately be felt and any impact he can make as a ball-carrier in the loose would be – in his first season in England at least – an added bonus.
But the signing of Țăruș is a welcome move given there are big questions over Sale’s current duo at the position.
Whilst Halani Aulika has proven a shrewd pickup from relegated London Irish - especially for his powerful ball-carrying – the Tongan’s discipline, particularly in giving away penalties in open play, has been a blemish on an otherwise impressive first season in Manchester. Yet despite Aulika’s struggles with indiscipline, Steve Diamond has been reluctant to trust fellow tighthead Kieran Longbottom with any greater in-game responsibilities than spot starts in the LV Cup and occasional short relief appearances at the tail end of Premiership games.
Although this could be understandable given Longbottom’s near two-years of foot-related injury problems, the signing of Țăruș indicates Sale are looking for more active competition at tighthead, an appropriate decision given that at 34 Aulika shouldn’t be expected to continue logging around 70 minutes per week in Premiership competition and who cannot be considered Sale’s long-term future at the position.
Whether Țăruș comes in and immediately makes the starting tighthead jersey his own at this juncture predominately depends on how all three first-team props train over the summer as Sale re-asses their immediate and long-term options at tighthead. But it is entirely plausible Sale are hoping to see Țăruș develop along a similar path as that of former stalwart Cobilas, who, after being plucked from relatively anonymity, quickly became one of the best all-round tighthead props in the entire Premiership after a year or two in development.
Țăruș undoubtedly has the necessary pedigree and physical attributes to eventually replicate his fellow Eastern European’s dominance in the Premiership. However, having been signed to a two-year contract, one would expect Țăruș, as a Tier 2 international with additional experience in the French domestic leagues, to play a more integral role in Sale’s 2017-18 campaign than Cobilas did in his first season in England, since the latter had only played professional rugby exclusively in Russia prior to joining the Sharks.
But as a low-risk, high-reward move, this is a very enticing pickup by Sale. Whilst the Sharks, flush with cash under the new ownership, continue to look to make a high-profile, big-money splash in the market, it could be the relatively inexpensive signings such as Țăruș that ultimately hit paydirt.
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