After a few weeks of ominous silence from the club, Friday morning bore two great new pieces of news for Sale Sharks and its supporters.
Jonathan Mills, a firm fan favourite since joining from London Welsh in 2013, has re-signed for another two years, whilst former fan favourite Neil Briggs will re-join the club from Leicester Tigers again on a two-year deal.
Personally I am a big fan of both deals.
Mills has been an inspirational pickup in the two years he's been in Manchester, leaving everything he has out on the pitch week in week out. He's neither the biggest, strongest or quickest second row forward you'll ever see but he plays the game with incredible intelligence, grit and determination. He serves as both receiver and lifter in Sale's lineout and often uses his experience to help clear out players from the rolling maul, either when Sale are in possession or not - a thankless but important job. He's also a ready ball-carrier, willing to take on multiple defenders in a tight spaces to help clear space and let the Sale backs re-group. He's a great depth player and able to slot into the Sale first XV at a moment's notice, having him re-signed for another two years is great news.
A lot of similar things can be said about Sale new (old?) boy Neil Briggs. Playing with the awareness and exceptional rucking and turnover ability gained from his days as a flanker, Briggs is another combative figure that is a ready-made replacement for the departing Marc Jones. At 29 and likely brought in specifically to backup the Hooker position, he won't impede Tommy Taylor's development as first choice in the squad but will provide crucial depth, likely relieving Taylor at critical points in Premiership games and starting in the LV. Its great to see Briggs return to the club after three years away in France and down south and here's hoping he can make a similar impact upon returning next season that Magnus Lund has this year.
The only uncertainty this leaves us with now is the status of Shalva Mamukashvili. I believe he was brought in only on a one-year contract and the addition of Briggs likely suggests that he will not be returning to the club at the end of the season. Taylor, Briggs and Cameron Neild who has made his first appearances for the club this season, are likely enough depth for Sale going forward although there is always a chance Mamukashvili is brought back. His continued absences with the Georgian national team (he's been selected for their Spring fixtures next month) may also play a part in not being re-signed.