Thursday morning saw Sale Sharks announce Nottingham fly-half Dan Mugford as their seventh signing ahead of the 2016-17 Premiership season.
Mugford, 24, is an ex-Exeter academy prospect who also turned out for London Scottish and Plymouth Albion before joining Nottingham in 2014. First choice fly-half with the Championship club this season, Mugford has scored 93 points in 16 appearances, helping the East Midlands side to a comfortable seventh position in England's second tier.
Having spent this morning scrambling to find any and all video analysis available on Mugford two things have stood out. First is that he has a wicked first step when attacking the line which helps open up gaps in opposition defences and buys him additional time in the pocket. Second is that he certainly has a big boot on him. I can't speak for his consistency off the tee but it would certainly appear Mugford is comfortable attempting kicks from on, or near, the half-way line, something departing fly-half Danny Cipriani has historically struggled with.
However I will confess my immediate reaction to this signing was one of slight disappointment and indeed, confusion.
With no definitive update on the status of Joe Ford - despite Mugford's arrival all but confirming the former will leave the club at the end of the season - Sale are in a strange position when it comes to the fly-half position.
AJ MacGinty and Mugford will definitely be involved with the first team next season whilst Danny Cipriani and Nick Macleod definitely won't be. However should Ford leave at the end of the season that leaves Sale with MacGinty, Mugford and academy prospect Tom Morton as the Sharks' rotation at number 10 for the 2016-17 season.
MacGinty, as I stressed in my piece on his arrival, is an intriguing prospect but certainly one that lacks the polish to immediately lead Sale to a comfortable position in the top-six; after all he only turned professional before the start of last season. However given the options currently at Sale's disposal, the American international is certainly the best placed to inherit Cipriani's vacant spot as the lynchpin of the Sharks' backline.
Mugford then would appear to be a strange acquisition. Untested at the Premiership level, Mugford is akin to a MacGinty-lite - certainly talented with some impressive physical tools but far from the finished article, and not somebody who is going to immediately replicate the impact Cipriani has made for Sale over the past four seasons.
Mugford is still an interesting player and as all Sale fans are aware, Steve Diamond is the market leader in finding players with unconventional paths to the Premiership before turning them into indispensable squad members. But I can't shake the feeling that Mugford would have made more sense had Sale signed a more renowned fly-half / back / playmaker to compete directly with MacGinty (Carlo Canna?), with Mugford then offering a rotation option and injury relief whilst being groomed concurrently for a larger role in later seasons.
Time will tell whether Mugford is an upgrade on Joe Ford in the backup fly-half role and whilst this isn't a signing I hate, with the loss of Cipriani, a truly world-class attacking operator, I feel underwhelmed at the prospect of having two relatively untested fly-halves in MacGinty and Mugford as Sale's go-to options at such an important position next season.
Either, or both, could come good in Manchester, but the signing of Mugford unfortunately does not placate fears that Sale will be unable to adequately replace the mercurial talents of Cipriani next season.
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