Sale Sharks announced their tenth signing ahead of the 2016-17 season with the capture of Byron McGuigan from Exeter Chiefs on a two-year-deal.
McGuigan, 26, is a Namibian-Scottish fullback with the ability to cover outside centre and wing. He featured 18 times for Exeter over the past two seasons and has also had spells with Glasgow Warriors (Pro 12), Bay of Plenty (ITM Cup), Border Bulldogs (Currie Cup) and Scotland 7's.
In all honesty this isn't going to be a signing to set the world alight, especially after weeks of rumoured arrivals of Kyle Eastmond or even Ben Ransom.
But I still really like this acquisition. Why? Squad depth.
With incumbent fullback Mike Haley likely to miss the opening rounds of the new season having suffered a disclosed shoulder on tour with the Saxons in South Africa, Sale were faced with the prospect of having either Dan Mugford (a fly-half) or Tim Jeffers (untested at Premiership level) start the season in the Sharks' no.15 jersey. McGuigan solves that conundrum nicely.
This is how this signing has to be viewed - McGuigan isn't exactly the marquee name many fans are hoping will still materialise before the season, but he does represent a more mature and balanced approach to managing the first team that will come under considerable strain this season, especially with participation in the European Champions Cup.
Most importantly, signing McGuigan now gives Sale the luxury of having a genuine backup to Mike Haley who played an averaged 72 minutes in the 27 appearances he made last season. For a scale of how heavily Haley was depended on last season, Sale only played 29 competitive fixtures. Such a usage rate is clearly unsustainable, especially if Sale expect to see Haley repeat the form that won him a callup to the England Saxons this summer.
And whilst there is likely to be a drop-off between Haley and McGuigan in terms of on-field impact, having somebody else who can step in at the position in a pinch and alleviate the burden on Haley will ensure he remains at his most impactful all season long. It also means Tom Arscott can remain on the left wing opposite Will Addison until Josh Charnley has settled into the 15-man code.
McGuigan's arrival also provides cover should Haley be called up for international duty during the season (an increasingly likely possibility following his starring turn in South Africa) and, of course, in the case of injuries along the backline; McGuigan's versatility could prove extremely important should Tom Arscott's and Josh Charnley's starts to the new season be delayed further or if Sam James has to spend time on the treatment table.
Long-term this is probably a stopgap signing until Tim Jeffers is ready to step up and compete with Haley for the no.15 jersey, but until then McGuigan should be a handy squad player that gives Steve Diamond and Paul Deacon the flexibility they need to manage the squad in order to maximise fitness and form over the course of a nine-month season.
Interestingly, a two-year deal suggests Diamond and Deacon have hopes that McGuigan can perhaps kick on from his Exeter days and solidify himself an important place in the Sharks' rotation, rather than just using him as a year-long plug-in option until additional signings can be made next year.
Overall this is a low-risk, medium-reward move that if nothing else slightly eases the burden on Sale's star backline players. And after years of bemoaning Sale's paper-thin squad depth, this is a welcome sign that the Sharks are intent on having a multitude of options in every position to better prepare themselves for participation in three separate competitions this year.
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