Sale Sharks kicked the week off with a bang on Monday morning with the announcement that London Irish and Tonga tighthead prop Halani Aulika is their ninth new signing ahead of the 2016-17 season.
Capped 17 times by Tonga, Aulika, 32, joined London Irish from Leeds Carnegie in 2012 and went on to make 81 appearances for the Exiles, notably grabbing 23 tries across four seasons in Reading.
Standing at just a shade under 6ft 3" and 19 stone, Aulika is a far cry from the conventional
model of a tighthead prop and his unorthodoxy is compounded by his ability to score tries like this:
Needless to say, Aulika is a powerful and deceptively quick ball-carrier who has a penchant for scoring tries; his signing gives Sale yet another loose forward to help share the carrying duties amongst the pack; a far cry from two seasons ago when the Sharks lacked any forwards capable of breaking the line on a consistent basis.
And whilst on the surface it would not appear to have been absolutely integral that Sale acquire Aulika since they already have Brian Mujati, Ciaran Parker, and from next season Kieran Longbottom at their disposal, Aulika is another excellent rotation option to have considering Longbottom's recent long-term injury struggles and Sale's upcoming participation in the European Champions Cup - a competition that will undoubtedly stretch the squad to its limit.
Aulika's signing also hypothetically frees up Longbottom to cover loosehead if absolutely necessary and allows additional development time for Ciaran Parker, who according to Steve Diamond last week "will be locked in the gym next year".
Overall this is a signing that shows Sale are more serious than ever about amassing an appropriate amount of depth at key positions to allow for effective competition across three tournaments.
And with the season in which Sale only had one tighthead prop - Vadim Cobilas - for the entire campaign still fresh in this writer's mind, having three Premiership options on the books for 2016/17 is a pleasant turnaround.
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